Minnesota Law Review

Strategic Enforcement

Doctrine and scholarship recognize two basic models of enforcing the law: the comprehensive model, under which law enforcers try to apprehend and punish every violator within the bounds of feasibility; and the randomized model, under which law enforcers economize their efforts by apprehending a small number of violators and heightening their penalties so as to make violations unattractive. The Article supplements this list of options by developing a strategic model of law enforcement. Under this model, law enforcers concentrate their effort on the worst, or most rampant, violators at a given point in time while leaving all others unpunished. This enforcement strategy will force violators into a cascaded retreat: to avoid detection as one of the worst violators, every individual wrongdoer will bring the level of his unlawful activity down to the point of inconspic­uousness—a process that will repeat itself several times to society’s benefit. The Article identifies the circumstances that call for the strategic model’s adoption and illustrates the model’s potential as an enforcement tool in diverse areas of the law that include employment discrimination, election districting, and copyright protection.

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