The Role of a Prosecutor

Prosecutors are unique in that they have both powers and duties that other lawyers do not. This does not mean prosecutors are any better or worse than other lawyers, but it does result in many misconceptions about the prosecutor's role in the criminal justice system. The quotations contained on this page are intended to shed some light on this role.

"The duty of a public prosecutor or other government lawyer is to seek justice, not merely to convict."

Rule 3.8(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct

"The United States Attorney [a prosecutor in Federal Court] is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor - indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one."

Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935) (bracketed material added)