Resource Constraints and the Criminal Justice System: Evidence from Judicial Vacancies
Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 820
57 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 1, 2015
Ten percent of federal judgeships are currently vacant, yet little is known on the impact of these vacancies on criminal justice outcomes. Using judge deaths and pension eligibility as instruments for judicial vacancies, I ﬁnd that prosecutors decline more cases during vacancies. Prosecuted defendants are more likely to plead guilty and less likely to be incarcerated, suggesting more favorable plea deals. The incarceration effects are larger among defendants represented by private counsel. These estimates imply that the current rate of vacancies has resulted in 1000 fewer prison inmates annually compared to a fully staffed court system, a 1.6 percent decrease.
Keywords: Criminal law, prosecutors, courts
JEL Classification: D70, H11, K14, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation