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May 25, 2010

"Judicial Discretion and Sentencing Behavior: Did the Feeney Amendment Rein in District Judges?"

The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by two economists, Beth Freeborn and Monica Hartmann, which appears in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.  Here is the abstract:

This research studies the impact of changes to judicial discretion on criminal sentencing outcomes.  The 2003 Feeney Amendment restricted federal judges' ability to impose sentences outside of the Sentencing Guidelines and required appellate courts to review downward departures.  Using data on all federal sentences between 1999 and 2004, we show that the amendment reduced downward departures by 5 percent.  Controlling for characteristics of the crime and the offender, we find that the Amendment increased average prison sentences by about two months.  There is no evidence that judges adjusted offense levels or criminal history in order to circumvent the Amendment.

May 25, 2010 at 07:01 PM | Permalink


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