November 27, 2012

Big sentencing differences within federal courthouses

TRAC - A new analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse — using case-by-case data updated through July 2012 — has found many cases in which there have been widely varying differences among the sentences issued by the judges within a federal courthouse.

The courthouse with widest sentence gap in the nation was Baltimore, Maryland. Here the typical, or median, sentence for one of the eight judges who had sentenced at least 50 defendants was 17 months. At the other end of the scale in Baltimore was a judge whose typical sentence was 78 months.

After Baltimore, the courthouses with the widest judge-to-judge differences were: Columbia, South Carolina (60 months); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (54 months); Macon, Middle District of Georgia (51 months); and Norfolk, Eastern District of Virginia (51 months).

There were also a number of courthouses in which there were only modest differences among the median sentences judges there assigned. There were, in fact, twelve courthouses in which the judges had identical median sentences. Overall, there were 28 courthouses where judge-to-judges differences in median sentences were five months or less . Most of these 28 courthouses were relatively small, with just two or three judges each. The largest was Seattle in the Western District of Washington with seven judges.

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