Electoral Sentencing Cycles

29 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2019 Last revised: 1 Nov 2019

See all articles by David Abrams

David Abrams

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS

Emeric Henry

Sciences Po

Arnaud Philippe

University of Bristol

Date Written: October 2019


Exploiting features of the North-Carolina judicial system, elections and forced rotation of judges, we overcome major challenges hampering the identification of the existence and source of sentencing variation over the electoral cycle. We show that when elections approach, sentencing for felonies increase. This increase is driven by decisions taken by judges present in their district of election, and only when elections are contested. When judges operate outside their district of elections, sentencing decisions do not significantly vary over the electoral cycle. Our results demonstrate the existence of strategic sentencing by judges in an attempt to please voters and allow us to discard alternative explanations for the rise along the cycle, such as behavioral motives or contextual explanations.

JEL Classification: K42

Suggested Citation

Abrams, David S. and Galbiati, Roberto and Henry, Emeric and Philippe, Arnaud, Electoral Sentencing Cycles (October 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14049, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3471243

David S. Abrams (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS ( email )

28 rue des saints peres
Paris, 75007

Emeric Henry

Sciences Po ( email )

27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337

Arnaud Philippe

University of Bristol ( email )

University of Bristol,
Senate House, Tyndall Avenue
Bristol, BS8 ITH
United Kingdom

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