Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles

58 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2017 Last revised: 17 Mar 2017

See all articles by Ozkan Eren

Ozkan Eren

University of California, Riverside

Naci H. Mocan

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 9, 2016


Employing the universe of juvenile court decisions in a U.S. state between 1996 and 2012, we analyze the effects of emotional shocks associated with unexpected outcomes of football games played by a prominent college team in the state. We investigate the behavior of judges, the conduct of whom should, by law, be free of personal biases and emotions. We find that unexpected losses increase disposition (sentence) lengths assigned by judges during the week following the game. Unexpected wins, or losses that were expected to be close contests ex-ante, have no impact. The effects of these emotional shocks are asymmetrically borne by black defendants. We present evidence that the results are not influenced by defendant or attorney behavior or by defendants’ economic background. Importantly, the results are driven by judges who have received their bachelor’s degrees from the university with which the football team is affiliated. Different falsification tests and a number of auxiliary analyses demonstrate the robustness of the findings. These results provide evidence for the impact of emotions in one domain on a behavior in a completely unrelated domain among a uniformly highly-educated group of individuals (judges), with decisions involving high stakes (sentence lengths). They also point to the existence of a subtle and previously-unnoticed capricious application of sentencing.

Keywords: juvenile, judge, court, emotion, race, sentence, random

JEL Classification: K41, J15

Suggested Citation

Eren, Ozkan and Mocan, Naci H., Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles (September 9, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2914649 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2914649

Ozkan Eren

University of California, Riverside ( email )

900 University Avenue
4136 Sproul Hall
Riverside, CA 92521
United States

Naci H. Mocan (Contact Author)

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of economics
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-6308
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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