Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Motivational structures underlying judicial discretion: An information theoretic investigation

Bhati, Avinash (2009): Motivational structures underlying judicial discretion: An information theoretic investigation.

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Abstract

Judicial discretion has rightly been termed a puzzle. Given the several competing concerns that can influence judges when they sanction offenders and the institutional structures that typically constrain their decisions, the task of uncovering the motivational structures underlying judicial discretion has proven very challenging for scholars. This paper develops a behavioral model of federal judges exercising discretion pursuant to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and derives testable implications regarding the amount of prison term they impose on convicted offenders. An information theoretic approach is used to investigate these assertions. The data reveal a host of information about judicial discretion including how various factors affect sanctioning decisions, how variation in case and offender attributes heighten or reduce judicial concerns, how judges juggle various competing concerns while exercising discretion, and how compliance with the guidelines competes with other judicial concerns.

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