Up to the judge

Kevin Lewis

January 19, 2018

When the Shadow is the Substance: Judge Gender and the Outcomes of Workplace Sex Discrimination Cases
Matthew Knepper
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming


The number of workplace sex discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) approaches 25,000 annually. Do the subsequent judicial proceedings suffer from a discriminatory gender bias? Exploiting random assignment of federal district court judges to civil cases, I find that female plaintiffs filing workplace sex discrimination claims are substantially more likely to settle and win compensation whenever a female judge is assigned to the case. Additionally, female judges are 15 percentage points less likely than male judges to grant motions filed by defendants, which suggests that final negotiations are shaped by the emergence of the bias.

Women Rule: Gendered Leadership and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Selection
Mikel Norris & Holley Tankersley
Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, forthcoming


While women are underrepresented in many political institutions and leadership positions, nearly half of state supreme court chief justices are women. Is there something about the role of state supreme court justice that facilitates the recruitment of women to this important political position? We examine whether the selection of a woman chief is driven by the court's institutional need for women's leadership style or simply the supply of qualified justices. We find that ideological diversity drives demand for a woman chief. A supply of experienced women justices also has a significant impact on likelihood of selection.

Order in the Court: How Firm Status and Reputation Shape the Outcomes of Employment Discrimination Suits
Mary-Hunter McDonnell & Brayden King
American Sociological Review, forthcoming


This article explores the mechanisms by which corporate prestige produces distorted legal outcomes. Drawing on social psychological theories of status, we suggest that prestige influences audience evaluations by shaping expectations, and that its effect will differ depending on whether a firm's blameworthiness has been firmly established. We empirically analyze a unique database of more than 500 employment discrimination suits brought between 1998 and 2008. We find that prestige is associated with a decreased likelihood of being found liable (suggesting a halo effect in assessments of blameworthiness), but with more severe punishments among organizations that are found liable (suggesting a halo tax in administrations of punishment). Our analysis allows us to reconcile two ostensibly contradictory bodies of work on how organizational prestige affects audience evaluations by showing that prestige can be both a benefit and a liability, depending on whether an organization's blameworthiness has been firmly established.

Right to Counsel in Misdemeanor Prosecutions After Alabama v. Shelton: No-Lawyer-Courts and Their Consequences on the Poor and Communities of Color in St. Louis
Thomas Harvey, Jared Rosenfeld & Shannon Tomascak
Criminal Justice Policy Review, forthcoming


Under U.S. Supreme Court cases Argersinger v. Hamlin and Alabama v. Shelton, the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires the provision of defense counsel to an indigent defendant for any charge that, if proved, actually leads to imprisonment or is punished by a suspended sentence that subsequently could lead to imprisonment. This article uses St. Louis as a case study to demonstrate that unconstitutional criminal procedures and underfunded public defender's offices create no-lawyer-courts - courts that unconstitutionally allow defendants to go unrepresented. In a period of observation spanning 2014-2016, we found that St. Louis courts violated the right to counsel in misdemeanor prosecutions through lengthy confinements and exorbitant bonds, abusive plea bargaining practices, invalid waivers, and unconstitutional sentences. Drawing from court observations and electronic data, this study highlights how constitutional doctrine's grant of procedural discretion to lower courts imposes injustice on poor and minority communities in practice.

Event dependence in U.S. executions
Frank Baumgartner, Janet Box-Steffensmeier & Benjamin Campbell
PLoS ONE, January 2018


Since 1976, the United States has seen over 1,400 judicial executions, and these have been highly concentrated in only a few states and counties. The number of executions across counties appears to fit a stretched distribution. These distributions are typically reflective of self-reinforcing processes where the probability of observing an event increases for each previous event. To examine these processes, we employ two-pronged empirical strategy. First, we utilize bootstrapped Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests to determine whether the pattern of executions reflect a stretched distribution, and confirm that they do. Second, we test for event-dependence using the Conditional Frailty Model. Our tests estimate the monthly hazard of an execution in a given county, accounting for the number of previous executions, homicides, poverty, and population demographics. Controlling for other factors, we find that the number of prior executions in a county increases the probability of the next execution and accelerates its timing. Once a jurisdiction goes down a given path, the path becomes self-reinforcing, causing the counties to separate out into those never executing (the vast majority of counties) and those which use the punishment frequently. This finding is of great legal and normative concern, and ultimately, may not be consistent with the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Tracing Charge Trajectories: A Study of the Influence of Race in Charge Changes at Case Screening, Arraignment, and Disposition
Besiki Luka Kutateladze
Criminology, forthcoming


Although social scientists and legal scholars have made valuable headway in identifying and explaining the relationships between myriad demographic, social, and legal factors and case outcomes, a sizable gap in understanding remains with respect to how cases evolve across decision points and how charges change for different racial and ethnic groups at individual decision points and cumulatively. This gap is partially addressed in this study through the examination of charge decreases, increases, and no change at three essential decision points - case screening for prosecution, arraignment, and final disposition. The results show that, overall, screening and disposition were much more dynamic decision points than was arraignment and that one third of cases experienced a charge decrease at some point. Even though racial differences in charge reductions at case screening were not large, at arraignment and disposition, as well as cumulatively, Black and Latino defendants were less likely than White defendants to have charges decreased. Conversely, Asian defendants experienced even more favorable outcomes than White defendants as they were more likely to have charges reduced and less likely to experience an increase. These findings are framed in the context of focal concerns, cumulative disadvantage, and "charge reasonableness" arguments.

A Jury of Her Peers: The Impact of the First Female Jurors on Criminal Convictions
Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer & Randi Hjalmarsson
Economic Journal, forthcoming


This paper uses an original data set of more than 3000 cases from 1918 to 1926 in the Central Criminal Courts of London to study the effect of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919. Implemented in 1921, this Act made women eligible to serve on English juries. Results based on a pre-post research design imply that the inclusion of women had little effect on overall conviction rates but significantly impacted conviction rates on particularly female salient cases: sex offenses, violent offenses with female versus male victims, and female defendants charged with 'other' (largely abortion related) offenses.

Can Words Get in the Way? The Effect of Deliberation in Collective Decision-Making
Matias Iaryczower, Xiaoxia Shi & Matthew Shum
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming


We quantify the effect of pre-vote deliberation on the decisions of US appellate courts. We estimate a model of strategic voting with incomplete information in which judges communicate before casting their votes, and then compare the probability of mistakes in the court with deliberation with a counterfactual of no pre-vote communication. The model has multiple equilibria, and judges' preferences and information parameters are only partially identified. We find that there is a range of parameters in the identified set in which deliberation can be beneficial. Specifically, deliberation lowers the incidence of incorrect decisions when judges tend to disagree ex ante or their private information is relatively imprecise; otherwise, it tends to reduce the effectiveness of the court.

Extra-judicial Actor Induced Change in Supreme Court Legitimacy
Miles Armaly
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming


Although public support for the U.S. Supreme Court is generally stable, various cues and heuristics affect how individuals derive political opinions. And while the Court is capable of conferring support on its own decisions, information from extra-judicial sources - such as presidential candidates - may have a potentially (de)legitimizing influence on individuals and their attitudes. Using a survey experimental design, I manipulate the source of negative statements about the judiciary to determine whether extra-judicial actors are capable of altering support for the Court and, if so, whether it is via ideological updating or is a purely affective response. I find that political actors unrelated to the Court are capable of producing change in attitudes and that those changes are affective. Those positive toward the cue source decrease their level of support upon hearing indicting statements, and vice versa, but individuals do not alter their perceived ideological distance from the Court. This finding has implications for the stability of the support on which the Court relies to expect compliance with its rulings, as well as how affective attachments to groups and their representatives influence institutional loyalty.

Small economic losses lower total compensation for victims of emotional losses
Shirley Zhang, Christopher Hsee & Xueer Yu
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, January 2018, Pages 1-10


This article explores an important yet understudied topic - the lay public's opinion of fair compensation for victims of emotional losses (emotional suffering). Four experiments, covering diverse contexts, find an anomalous phenomenon: laypeople would award less compensation to someone incurring an emotional loss if the person also incurs a small economic loss than if the person incurs little or no economic loss. We explain the effect using a reasonable-anchor account: if the victim incurs little or no economic loss, people will base their assessment of total compensation on what they consider the emotional loss is worth; if the victim also incurs a non-trivial economic loss, people will anchor their assessment on the economic loss, and if the economic loss is small, the compensation will also be small. In other words, the presence of an economic loss "crowds out" the emotional loss in assessment of total compensation. This research enriches our knowledge about how laypeople make compensation decisions for emotional losses, and when they use economic losses as anchors.

Evaluating the Role of Race in Sentencing: An Entropy Weighting Analysis
John MacDonald & Ellen Donnelly
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming


The current study builds on prior research examining racial disparities in sentencing. Entropy weighting is introduced as a new method for estimating racial disparities that has several advantages over traditionally used methods. Entropy weighting is compared to regression and propensity score methods in estimating Black-White disparities in incarceration sentences. Although all methods find non-significant racial disparities in incarceration sentences, regression and propensity score methods underestimate disparities in incarceration sentence lengths. Entropy weighting provides comparable estimates to propensity score methods, but assures that the samples are identical on all covariates aside from race. The method offers researchers a useful and flexible approach for estimating racial disparities in criminal justice, and its use may lead to alternative conclusions about the size and presence of racial disparities in sentencing.


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