Directing Retribution: On the Political Control of Lower Court Judges

Posted: 23 Jun 2008

See all articles by Gregory Huber

Gregory Huber

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Sanford C. Gordon

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

The sentencing decisions of trial judges are constrained by statutory limits imposed by legislatures. At the same time, judges in many states face periodic review, often by the electorate. We develop a model in which the effects of these features of a judge's political landscape on judicial behavior interact. The model yields several intriguing results: First, if legislators care about the proportionality of punishment, judicial discretion increases with their punitiveness. Second, voters are limited by two factors in their ability to make inferences about judicial preferences based on observed sentences: the extent to which judges are willing to pander to retain office and the range of judicial discretion mandated by the legislature. Finally, legislators can sometimes manipulate judicial discretion to aid sufficiently like-minded voters in their efforts to replace ideologically dissimilar judges.

Suggested Citation

Huber, Gregory and Gordon, Sanford C., Directing Retribution: On the Political Control of Lower Court Judges (June 2007). The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 23, Issue 2, pp. 386-420, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1150032 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jleo/ewm027

Gregory Huber (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States

Sanford C. Gordon

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

19 West 4th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

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