Prof. Stephanos Bibas
Stephanos Bibas, who joined Penn Law in 2006, brings an ex-prosecutor’s eye to the study of criminal procedure. One theme of his work explores how procedural rules written for the idealized world of jury trials have unintended consequences in the real world, where 95% of defendants plead guilty. A related strand explores the powers, incentives, information, and psychology that shape how prosecutors, defense counsel, defendants, and judges actually behave. He has argued, for example, that jury-trial rights wind up having counterintuitive effects on plea-bargaining dynamics, and that structural and psychological impediments keep plea bargains from tracking expected trial outcomes. A third strand of his work explores the divorce between criminal procedure’s narrow focus on efficiency, accuracy, and procedural fairness and substantive criminal law’s moral aims and interest in healing victims, defendants, and communities. In this vein, he has written about and is beginning a book on how criminal justice should do more to encourage acceptance of responsibility, remorse, apology, and forgiveness.
As a federal prosecutor, Bibas successfully prosecuted the world’s leading expert in Tiffany stained glass, J. Alastair Duncan, for hiring a grave robber to steal priceless Tiffany windows from cemeteries. Bibas consults with and advises states whose criminal-procedure cases are going to be reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States. His work was cited and played a central role in the debate between the Supreme Court’s majority and dissenters in the landmark case of Blakely v. Washington.