Randomness Pre-Considered: Recognizing and Accounting for 'De-Randomizing' Events When Utilizing Random Judicial Assignment
66 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2015 Last revised: 16 Aug 2018
Date Written: October 6, 2017
This paper contributes to the growing literature challenging the general assumption of random judicial assignment by identifying a set of common court procedures and practices that this paper calls “de-randomizing” events. These events, which include differing probabilities of assignment, post-assignment judicial changes, non-random missingness and non-random assignment itself, should be accounted for in order to make unbiased causal claims but are commonly either ignored by or not even recognized by researchers utilizing random judicial assignment. The paper explores how these de-randomizing events violate the key empirical assumptions underlying randomized studies and offers methodological solutions. It also presents original data from a survey of the 30 largest U.S. state-level criminal courts, outlining their assignment protocols and identifying the extent to which they feature the de-randomizing events described in the paper.
Keywords: experiments, randomization, courts, methods, causal inference, judges
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