Judge effects, case characteristics, and plea bargaining

Kristin F. Butcher, Kyung H. Park, Anne Morrison Piehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agrowing literature uses randomassignment of cases to judges to examine criminal sentencing. To extend this line of work, we directly examine howjudicial ‘harshness’ varies with the seriousness of criminal conviction. Using a model that respects the mix of cases and the noise produced by small caseloads, we find that case severity is best viewed as an endogenous outcome of bargaining. We also find that harsher judges have a higher share of cases failing to reach a plea bargain, but perhaps surprisingly, there is little evidence that large jumps in expected incarceration lead to differential plea bargain outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S543-S574
JournalJournal of Labor Economics
Issue numberS2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial relations
  • Economics and Econometrics


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