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: