Judges have bad days: SHOCK!

Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles
by Ozkan Eren, Naci Mocan – #22611 (CH HE LE LS)

Abstract:

Employing the universe of juvenile court decisions in a U.S. state
between 1996 and 2012, we analyze the effects of emotional shocks
associated with unexpected outcomes of football games played by a
prominent college team in the state. We investigate the behavior of
judges, the conduct of whom should, by law, be free of personal
biases and emotions. We find that unexpected losses increase
disposition (sentence) lengths assigned by judges during the week
following the game. Unexpected wins, or losses that were expected to
be close contests ex-ante, have no impact. The effects of these
emotional shocks are asymmetrically borne by black defendants. We
present evidence that the results are not influenced by defendant or
attorney behavior or by defendants’ economic background.
Importantly, the results are driven by judges who have received their
bachelor’s degrees from the university with which the football team
is affiliated. Different falsification tests and a number of
auxiliary analyses demonstrate the robustness of the findings. These
results provide evidence for the impact of emotions in one domain on
a behavior in a completely unrelated domain among a uniformly
highly-educated group of individuals (judges), with decisions
involving high stakes (sentence lengths). They also point to the
existence of a subtle and previously-unnoticed capricious application
of sentencing.

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