If You Give a Judge a Case: Judicial Oversight of Deferred Prosecution Agreements

Three district courts have found that a court has the authority to reject a deferred prosecution agreement if it disagrees with the substance of the document, regardless of the agreement of the parties. These rulings can be viewed as violating the separation of powers doctrine. The hook for such judicial review is a provision of the Speedy Trial Act, but does the statute actually give courts the authority to review and reject the substance of DPAs? Plenary review of DPAs may have far-reaching implications. For example, after a court rejects a DPA, is a defendant still bound by the statement of facts admitted to as part of the DPA? If judicial scrutiny of DPAs becomes the norm, defendants should insist on language putting the parties back on an even playing field upon the rejection of a DPA.