This book explores the causes of prosecutorial independence and effectiveness against systemic corruption through an examination of the conditions leading to the Italian “Clean Hands” operation’s unprecedented success. In 1992, Italian prosecutors uncovered a decades-long corruption system cutting across regions and levels of government. The Clean Hands operation resulted in hundreds of convictions and permanently changed the Italian political landscape. This judicial breakthrough derived from a gradual and conflictual process to replace hierarchical prosecutorial institutions with more egalitarian ones. The author shows via case studies of the prosecutors’ offices in Milan, Rome, Palermo, and Reggio Calabria that the introduction of egalitarian decision-making afforded local prosecutors with enhanced independence in exploring novel investigative techniques and legal theories. The introduction of egalitarian organizational structures created ideal conditions for the emergence of legal innovations and their diffusion via judicial and prosecutorial networks. This process resulted in the unprecedented accumulation of prosecutorial expertise on complex criminal issues, such as domestic terrorism and mafia organizations, and led to the emergence of an effective prosecutorial approach to systemic corruption. Thus, the Italian case offers important lessons that may apply to the prosecution of systemic corruption in other democracies as well.
Lucia Manzi is assistant professor of political science at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Introduction: The Long Failure of Corruption Prosecutions and the Mani Pulite Operation’s Breakthrough
Chapter 1: From Hierarchical to Egalitarian: The Root Causes of Prosecutorial Independence and Effectiveness Against Systemic Corruption
Chapter 2: A More Democratic Judiciary: The Transformation of Italian Judicial and Prosecutorial Institutions
Chapter 3: All Investigations Lead to Rome: The Roman Prosecutor’s Office
Chapter 4: A New Model of Criminal Justice: The Milan Prosecutor’s Office
Chapter 5: Tackling Omertà: The Prosecutors’ Offices in Palermo and Reggio Calabria
Conclusion: Lessons for Prosecutorial Success Against Corruption
In this extraordinary book on Italy’s Mani Pulite, Manzi breaks new ground in the study of anti-corruption and judicial power. She tells a fascinating story of how institutional change, judicial and prosecutorial dexterity, and civil society mobilization converged to produce an unprecedented pro-transparency push, one with profound local, regional, and global implications. Through a clever combination of historical analysis, within case comparisons and creative fieldwork, Manzi shows that the internal design of judicial and prosecutorial bureaucracies, in particular the degree to which they are hierarchical or “flat,” greatly conditions the ability of actors in the criminal legal complex to hold politicians to account. She also shows that via synergies with activists and legal scholars, judges and prosecutors can produce innovative investigative protocols and jurisprudence, thus amplifying the effects of institutional change. This book is a must read for students of judicial politics and corruption criminalization.
Manzi’s book richly demonstrates that prosecutorial independence and effectiveness in anticorruption are political constructs. At the time when some in the “anticorruption industry” take these factors for granted or try to acritically replicate models in which they are required, she reminds us that it is crucial to look at the historical and contextual factors embedding prosecutors and prosecutorial services. Learning this key lesson from the Clean Hands case will equip the next generations of anticorruption activists to do better and avoid potentially tragic mistakes, like those committed in Brazil’s lava jato.
In this outstanding book, Lucia Manzi offers a highly compelling account of the factors that explain the timing and effectiveness of Italy's Clean Hands operation. Through careful analysis, Professor Manzi shows that the roots of the operation's success lie in the interaction of previous institutional restructuring with an egalitarian understanding and practice of the prosecutorial role. The book's broader theoretical insight is that effective pursuit of accountability for abuses of political office depends on the answer to the deceptively simple question, “For whom do prosecutors work?”