Publications by Year: Working Paper

Working Paper
How do judges' previous professional experiences affect case outcomes? In this short article, we investigate the question by documenting the effect of judges' previous criminal justice experience on sentencing. Leveraging thousands of federal sentences from 2010 to 2019, we find that defendants with charges assigned to a former public defender are, on average, less likely to be incarcerated. In some cases, their sentences are also shorter, which we show is partially attributable to former defenders being less likely to give out extremely long sentences. The findings make two key contributions. First, they contribute to growing evidence of disparities in the criminal legal system, particularly those associated with judge characteristics. Second, the findings showcase the potential impact of judges' previous professional experience (as opposed to demographic characteristics) on decision-making. Both illustrate a new strategy in how political actors can influence policy through judicial selection on the basis of professional experience
harris-sen-public-defenders.pdf
Chilton, Adam, Daniel Epps, Kyle Rozema, and Maya Sen. Working Paper. “The Endgame of Court-Packing”. Publisher's Version Abstract
We estimate the size of the U.S. Supreme Court in a world in which the political parties engage in tit-for-tat court-packing. We do so by assuming that the Supreme Court is immediately expanded by four members and that future presidents who court-pack would add enough seats to ensure that a simple majority of justices were appointed by their party. In a series of simulations, we find that median result of repeated partisan court-packing would be to increase the size of the Court to 23 justices within 50 years and to 39 justices within 100 years. We also study the incentives for justices to retire strategically in a world with repeated partisan court-packing and the resulting effects of changes in strategic retirement on the size the Court. We find that court-packing would decrease the incentives for strategic retirement, but we also find that changes in justices’ retirement decisions would have little effect on the eventual size of the Court.
Bonica, Adam, Adam Chilton, and Maya Sen. Working Paper. “The “Odd Party Out” Theory of Certiorari”. Abstract
How justices advance their ideological preferences is among the most well-studied aspects of the Supreme Court. In contrast, we explore how the Court may discourage ideologically motivated behavior: granting cert petitions when there is a likelihood that ideological bias influenced the lower court. We theorize that cert is more likely when there is ideological distance between the parties and the lower court panel is ideologically distant to the losing side. In these cases, the party petitioning for cert becomes the Odd Party Out, which conveys information about the possibility of lower court bias. We test the theory using a new dataset of nearly 18,000 cert petitions that incorporates advocate and judge ideology. We find strong support: Cert is more likely when the petitioner---regardless of their ideology---is the ideological Odd Party Out. This provides evidence that justices in some instances may disregard their own ideological concerns and permit the Court to intervene against ideologically driven behavior in lower courts. 
odd-party-out.pdf