Descriptive Representation and Judicial Outcomes in Multi-Ethnic Societies
American Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming
47 Pages Posted: 17 May 2014 Last revised: 25 Mar 2019
Date Written: July 27, 2014
The extent to which judicial outcomes depend on judges' identities is a central question in multi-ethnic societies. Past work on the impact of the racial composition of appellate courts has narrowly focused on civil rights cases in the USA. We expand this literature by testing for ethnicity-based panel effects in criminal appeals in Israel. Using randomness in the assignment of cases to panels, we find that appeal outcomes for Jewish defendants are independent of panels' ethnic composition. By contrast, panel composition is highly consequential for Arab defendants, who receive more lenient punishments when their case is heard by a panel that includes at least one Arab judge, compared to all-Jewish panels. The magnitude of these effects is sizable: a 14-20% reduction in incarceration and a 15-26% reduction in prison sentencing. These findings contribute to recent debates on the relationship between descriptive representation and substantive outcomes in judicial bodies.
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