A new analysis of hundreds of thousands of cases in federal courts has found vast disparities in the prison sentences handed down by judges presiding over similar cases, raising questions about the extent to which federal sentences are influenced by the particular judges rather than by the specific circumstances of the cases....I sometimes wonder if we have too much respect for the title "judge." We expect anyone with that title to give us JUSTICE that no one can question. However, JUSTICE is merely a general goal. There is no way to be certain of what JUSTICE is in an individual case or even in the aggregate, whether we are talking about criminal sentences or Social Security disability determination. Justice must be administered by flesh and blood people who have to cope with laws that give them discretion to deal with individual circumstances. Dealing with those individual circumstances is what judging is all about. If we want judges to deal with those individual circumstances, and I think we do, we must expect disparities. Don't expect omniscience when you give someone the title of "judge" because you won't get it.
In the Eastern District of New York, for example, the 28 judges in the study delivered a median sentence of 24 months for drug cases in the past five years. But there were disparities: Judges Jack B. Weinstein and Kiyo A. Matsumoto gave median drug sentences of 12 months, while the median drug sentence for Judge Arthur D. Spatt was 64 months.
Mar 13, 2012
It's Not Just Social Security ALJs Who Are Inconsistent
From the New York Times:
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Having practiced in the Eastern District of New York for a long time on Social Security Appeals it would be interesting to see how these statistics might compare to SS remands from these same Judges. I can tell you that Judge Weinstein and Matsumoto are about twice as likely to remand a case as Judge Spatt (although both Spatt and Weinstein are now Seniors and rarely, if ever, take SS cases)
As veteran of a number of jury trials, I can attest you see identical disparities among jurors. We cannot attain a perfect system, but we can attain a good one if we work at it.
Don't judges consider mitigating factors when handing down a penalty and doesn't this really come down to how well the defense argues those factors at sentencing hearings?
I would think this would be one of the causes of disparity.
The competence of a defense attorney or the mitigating factors of a particular defendant can certainly influence a particular defendant and a particular sentence. But these things don't influence the pattern displayed by a particular judge. Think about it - do the judges with lower sentencing rates just happen to get all defendants with competent counsel and mitigating factors?
Excellent. Understood. When the data is drilled down to particular judges, a peculiar story begins to unfold.
Nobody is asking for conformity, just accountability. When an SSA ALJ remands "too much" the claimant appeals, and the AC and/or federal courts keep things in check. When an ALJ approves benefits "too much," people can complain but nobody can realistically do anything about it unless the WSJ rakes some muck.
There is an underlying assumption on fora like these that approving way above average is not a big deal because the claimants are probably suffering anyway, even if they aren't technically disabled. Well it is a big deal because we are all on the hook for their benefits from here on out.
In re: 1:01 a.m.'s comment:
It's an unbalanced system post-ALJ decision. Denials are (or at least are usually) revied on appeal; grants get no such review since there is no appeal. Fixing that would go a long way toward improving the integrity of the system.
SSA grants are subject to "own motion" review by the AC. I have one such remand coming up shortly.
Ah, I never thought to compare ALJ decision trends to the decision trends in other courts. Haha, what, exactly were we comparing these ALJs to?
I think this total lack of good journalism out there has really hurt my ability to think critically...
9:25, how many of Daugherty's favorables do you think went through AC own motion review? Or survived for that matter?
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