Judges on Trial: The Impact of Judge Characteristics Across Modes of Conviction

Brian D. Johnson, University of Maryland at College Park

Recent research suggests that courtroom decision making processes may vary depending on whether or not a case is pled or convicted at trial (Johnson, 2003). If the role of different courtroom actors in the sentencing process varies by mode of conviction, then the influence of courtroom actor background characteristics should also be expected to vary by mode of conviction. Using recent data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing (PCS), the present study tests this hypothesis by examining the influence of a variety of judicial background characteristics across different modes of conviction. Preliminary findings indicate that several judge level predictors of sentencing exert differential effects for plead cases compared to cases convicted at trial. These results have important implications for both past and future research on courtroom actor background influences in sentencing, and they provide useful insights for future theorizing on courtroom decision-making processes and outcomes.

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Updated 05/20/2006