Clash of Norms: Judicial Leniency on Defendant Birthdays

27 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2018 Last revised: 10 Feb 2020

See all articles by Daniel L. Chen

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France

Arnaud Philippe

University of Toulouse 1 - Toulouse School of Economics (TSE)

Date Written: January 24, 2020

Abstract

We document judicial leniency on defendant birthdays across 5 million decisions. French sentences are 1% fewer and 3% shorter. U.S. federal sentences are 33% shorter in the day component of sentences (the month component remains unaffected). New Orleans sentences are 15% shorter overall. No leniency appears on the days before or after a defendant’s birthday. Federal judges using deterrence language in opinions, are unaffected, isolating the judicial as opposed to defendant channel. The effect is doubled when judge and defendant share the same race. Our courtroom setting rules out many models of social preferences with reciprocity motives, but may be consistent with indirect reciprocity and guilt aversion based on the judge’s beliefs about the defendant’s reference point.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Daniel L. and Philippe, Arnaud, Clash of Norms: Judicial Leniency on Defendant Birthdays (January 24, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3203624 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3203624

Daniel L. Chen (Contact Author)

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France ( email )

Toulouse School of Economics
1, Esplanade de l'Université
Toulouse, 31080
France

Arnaud Philippe

University of Toulouse 1 - Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) ( email )

Place Anatole-France
Toulouse Cedex, F-31042
France

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