32 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2018
Date Written: June 29, 2018
Greater delegation of authority to judges allows them to tailor decisions more precisely to the facts of the case and local norms, but also increases the likelihood of judicial capture, especially by repeat litigants. Three main approach have historically been taken to address this in the criminal law realm: judicial elections, judicial rotation and sentencing guidelines. We investigate some of the trade-offs inherent in the different approaches using data from North Carolina which has the unusual feature of frequent judicial rotation as well as elections and sentencing guidelines. We find that sentences converge over time within a judicial spell in a district to the local average sentence. We also document that the more prior interactions a judge has with a defense attorney, the more sentences decline. Finally, we show that judges respond to electoral cycles and that elections thus can be a way to discipline them.
Keywords: judges, crime, political economy, federalism
JEL Classification: K14, K41, P16, P48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation