Recent Study on Federal Sentences Identifies “Most Discriminatory Federal Judges”

The Federal Docket

August 12, 2021

The Institute for the Quantitative Study of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity recently published a study regarding the effects of racial discrimination on sentencing in federal criminal cases. The study sought to answer two questions:

(1) Which federal judges give the harshest sentence length penalty to Black defendants?
(2) Which federal judges give the harshest sentence length penalty to Hispanic defendants?

This study is not the first attempt to measure how implicit bias and discrimination impact sentencing. In 2004, a report funded by the DOJ looked at sentencing disparities, especially in systems using sentencing guidelines. The U.S. Sentencing Commission has also published statistics regarding racial, ethnic, and gender sentencing disparities at the federal level.

In this study, however, the authors listed every federal district judge that presided over criminal cases over a certain period of time and rated them based on their apparent discriminatory practices in sentencing black and Hispanic defendants. The study, according to the authors, was able to: “(1) replicate previous findings that aggregate, conditional racial disparities in sentence lengths are large, (2) show that judges vary considerably in estimated racial discrimination, and (3) list the federal judges who exhibit the clearest evidence of racial discrimination.”

The paper itself lists the “top ten” judges who discriminate the most against black and Hispanic defendants, but the study includes supplement materials that explain the study’s methodology, as well as a full list of all of the federal judges in each district and statistics reflecting the effect of racial discrimination on their sentencing practices.

Click here to read the full study. Click here to access the supplemental materials for the paper.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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