07 February 2006

Judge's Views Matter

Sentencing is an area where judges have more discretion than most other areas of law, particularly now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cast aside the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (a fact that the Department of Justice had made it a matter of policy to ignore). Republicans and Democrats view the matter differently.

In a study of 365,000 sentences meted out between 1992 and 2001, the Republican appointees appeared to give about 10 percent more prison time for violent crimes, drug offenses and theft. . . .

The study by Northwestern School of Law professors Emerson Tiller and Max Schanzenbach will be published in the Journal of Law, Economics & Organization in 2007. . . .

"Sentence lengths for street crimes are between 7 and 9 months lower for Democrat-appointed judges."

Democrat-appointed judges tend to assign white-collar criminals higher "offense levels"--scores that reflect the seriousness of the crime--though the scholars said they couldn't detect any difference in prison terms due to statistical issues.

Notably, these differences arose while the United States Sentencing Guidelines were binding in the federal courts and the differences are likely to be even more stark now.

Hat Tip to the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog.

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