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Crime, Punishment, and Politics: An Analysis of Political Cycles in Criminal Sentencing

65 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2012  

Carlos Berdejó

Loyola Law School

Noam Yuchtman

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Date Written: December 28, 2012

Abstract

Whether judges respond to political pressure is an important question occupying social scientists. We present evidence that Washington State judges respond to such pressure by sentencing serious crimes more severely. Sentences are around 10% longer at the end of a judge's political cycle than the beginning; deviations above the sentencing guidelines increase by 50% across the electoral cycle. We conduct robustness and falsi fication exercises and distinguish between judges' election cycles and other officials' by exploring non-linear eff ects of electoral proximity. Our fi ndings inform debates over judicial elections, and highlight the interaction between judicial discretion and the influence of judicial elections.

JEL Classification: K40, K42, D72

Suggested Citation

Berdejó, Carlos and Yuchtman, Noam, Crime, Punishment, and Politics: An Analysis of Political Cycles in Criminal Sentencing (December 28, 2012). Review of Economics and Statistics, Forthcoming; Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2012-50. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2194605

Carlos Berdejó (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States

Noam Yuchtman

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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