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Criminal Law

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

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Punishing On A Curve, Adi Leibovitch Aug 2017

Punishing On A Curve, Adi Leibovitch

Northwestern University Law Review

Does the punishment of one defendant depend on how she fares in comparison to the other defendants on the judge’s docket? This Article demonstrates that the troubling answer is yes. Judges sentence a given offense more harshly when their caseloads contain relatively milder offenses and more leniently when their caseloads contain more serious crimes. I call this phenomenon “punishing on a curve.”

Consequently, this Article shows how such relative sentencing patterns put into question the prevailing practice of establishing specialized courts and courts of limited jurisdiction. Because judges punish on a curve, a court’s jurisdictional scope systematically shapes ...