Do elected judges tailor criminal sentences to the electorate’s ideology? Utilizing sentencing data from North Carolina’s Superior Courts—which transitioned from statewide to local elections in 1996—we study whether judges are obliging to voters’ preferences. We find some evidence of responsiveness: judges from liberal districts were more lenient, while those from moderately conservative districts assigned harsher sentences. Judges from increasingly conservative districts did not change their sentencing patterns, which leads to lower re-election rates. These findings suggest that judges adapt their behavior to retain office, or else they are held accountable by the public.
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Boston, Joshua and Silveira, Bernardo S., "The Electoral Connection in Court: How Sentencing Responds to Voter Preferences" (2023). Political Science Faculty Publications. 62.
Journal of Law and Courts
Cambridge University Press
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