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Harvard study: Black defendants get longer sentences from GOP-appointed judges

A new study from Harvard Law School professors finds that black defendants receive longer sentences from Republican-appointed judges than from Democratic-appointed ones.

Professors Alma Cohen and Crystal Yang analyzed data on more than 500,000 defendants, with data revealing that under a GOP-appointed judge, a black defendant receives sentences that are, on average, three months longer than from a Democratic-appointed judge.

The study also found that those same judges gave shorter sentences to women by an average of two months compared to “similar males.”


“These differences cannot be explained by other judge characteristics and grow substantially larger when judges are granted more discretion,” the study found.

The professors analyzed more than 15 years worth of federal data on the sentencing practices of about 1,400 federal judges.

The new data supports previous research that shows black men serve longer prison sentences than white men for similar crimes and also provides new details on the effect of a judge’s political affiliation on sentencing.

The authors of the study noted that the data does not explain why the disparities exist.

“We caution that our results cannot speak to whether the sentences imposed by Republican- or Democratic-appointed judges are warranted or ‘right,’ ” they wrote.

The study suggested that the increase in the share of Republican-appointed judges under President Trump could widen the disparities.

Trump has set a record for most judicial nominees confirmed during his first year in office, with many of those replacing Democratic appointees.

Tags Donald Trump Federal judges judge appointments party affiliation Sentencing
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