Alma Cohen, Alon Klement & Zvika Neeman, Judicial Decision Making: A Dynamic Reputation Approach, 44 J. Legal Stud. S133 (2015).
Abstract: We seek to contribute to an understanding of how judicial elections affect the incentives and decisions of judges. We develop a theoretical model suggesting that judges who are concerned about their reputation will tend to decide against their prior decisions as they approach elections. That is, judges who imposed a large number of severe sentences in the past and are thus perceived to be strict will tend to impose less severe sentences prior to elections. Conversely, judges who imposed a large number of light sentences in the past and are thus perceived to be lenient will tend to impose more severe sentences prior to elections. Using data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, we test, and find evidence consistent with, the predictions of our model.