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October 12, 2011

"The Costs of Judging Judges by the Numbers"

The title of this post is the title of this relatively short paper by Marin Levy, Kate Stith and José Cabranes, which is available via SSRN. (Though not directly focused on judging judges based on sentencing numbers, I think it is telling and not too surprising that two of the authors of this paper have a long distinguished history of federal sentencing scholarship.)  Here is the abstract:

This essay discredits current empirical models that are designed to “judge” or rank appellate judges, and then assesses the harms of propagating such models.  First, the essay builds on the discussion of empirical models by arguing that (1) the judicial virtues that the legal empiricists set out to measure have little bearing on what actually makes for a good judge; and (2) even if they did, the empiricists’ chosen variables have not measured those virtues accurately.  The essay then concludes that by generating unreliable claims about the relative quality of judges, these studies mislead both decision-makers and the public, degrade discussions of judging, and could, if taken seriously, detrimentally alter the behavior of judges themselves.

Especially because sentencing judges are (too?) often judged by the numbers of years of prison they impose on various offenders, I think this essay should be read by advocates of sentencing reforms.

October 12, 2011 at 07:36 AM | Permalink


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No lawyer here is able to utter the V word. Measure the result of the aim of the court, public safety, and the community crime victimization rate.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 12, 2011 6:35:44 PM

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