The Effect of Trial-Judge Experience on Appellate Decisionmaking Behavior
Duke University - School of Law
Duke University - Graduate School; Duke University - School of Law
April 25, 2008
Appellate judges do not join the bench with tabulae rasae. Their life experiences shape their behavior, but to what extent? This empirical study investigates whether the experience of serving as a trial judge affects federal intermediate appellate judges' likelihood of voting to affirm trial-court rulings. The study analyzes 3,222 appellate votes from criminal sentencing cases that came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit between 2003 and 2007, and it controls for fifteen factors other than trial-judge experience that might influence appellate decisionmaking behavior. From these data, several conclusions emerge: Prior experience as a state trial judge causes an appellate judge to be more likely to vote to affirm. Prior experience as a federal trial judge, however, has no statistically significant effect. Prior experience from both state and federal trial benches also has no statistically significant effect. Finally, the effect of state trial-judge experience diminishes when lower courts have greater discretion.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: judges, judicial decisionmaking, sentencing, sentences, appeals, appellate behavior, Bookerworking papers series
Date posted: April 30, 2008
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