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Empirical studies

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University of Michigan Law School

Law and Race

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Race And Wrongful Convictions In The United States, Samuel R. Gross, Maurice Possley, Klara Stephens Mar 2017

Race And Wrongful Convictions In The United States, Samuel R. Gross, Maurice Possley, Klara Stephens

Other Publications

African Americans are only 13% of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated. They constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large-scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations.” We see this racial disparity for all major crime categories, but we examine it in this report in the context of the three types of crime that produce the largest numbers …


What We Think, What We Know And What We Think We Know About False Convictions, Samuel Gross Jan 2017

What We Think, What We Know And What We Think We Know About False Convictions, Samuel Gross

Articles

False convictions are notoriously difficult to study because they can neither be observed when they occur nor identified after the fact by any plausible research strategy. Our best shot is to collect data on those that come to light in legal proceedings that result in the exoneration of the convicted defendants. In May 2012, the National Registry of Exonerations released its first report, covering 873 exonerations from January 1989 through February 2012. By October 15, 2016, we had added 1,027 cases: 599 exonerations since March 1, 2012, and 428 that had already happened when we issued our initial report but …


Testing Racial Profiling: Empirical Assessment Of Disparate Treatment By Police, Sonja B. Starr Jan 2016

Testing Racial Profiling: Empirical Assessment Of Disparate Treatment By Police, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

In this Article, I explore why measuring disparate-treatment discrimination by police is so difficult, and consider the ways that researchers' existing tools can make headway on these challenges and the ways they fall short. Lab experiments have provided useful information about implicit racial bias, but they cannot directly tell us how these biases actually affect real-world behavior. Meanwhile, for observational researchers, there are various hurdles, but the hardest one to overcome is generally the absence of data on the citizen conduct that at least partially shapes policing decisions. Most crime, and certainly most noncriminal "suspicious" or probable-cause-generating behavior, goes unreported …


Racial Disparity In Federal Criminal Sentences, M. Marit Rehavi, Sonja B. Starr Dec 2014

Racial Disparity In Federal Criminal Sentences, M. Marit Rehavi, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

Using rich data linking federal cases from arrest through to sentencing, we find that initial case and defendant characteristics, including arrest offense and criminal history, can explain most of the large raw racial disparity in federal sentences, but significant gaps remain. Across the distribution, blacks receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than those of comparable whites arrested for the same crimes. Most of this disparity can be explained by prosecutors’ initial charging decisions, particularly the filing of charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences. Ceteris paribus, the odds of black arrestees facing such a charge are 1.75 times higher than …


On Estimating Disparity And Inferring Causation: Sur-Reply To The U.S. Sentencing Commission Staff, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi Jan 2013

On Estimating Disparity And Inferring Causation: Sur-Reply To The U.S. Sentencing Commission Staff, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi

Articles

In this Essay, Professors Starr and Rehavi respond to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s empirical staff’s criticisms of their recent article, which found, contrary to the Commission’s prior work, no evidence that racial disparity in sentences increased in response to United States v. Booker. As Starr and Rehavi suggest, their differences with the Commission perhaps relate to differing objectives. The Commission staff’s reply expresses a lack of interest in identifying Booker’s causal effects; in contrast, that is Starr and Rehavi’s central objective. In addition, Starr and Rehavi’s approach also accounts for disparities arising throughout the post-arrest justice process, extending beyond the …


Prison Segregation: Symposium Introduction And Preliminary Data On Racial Disparities, Margo Schlanger Jan 2013

Prison Segregation: Symposium Introduction And Preliminary Data On Racial Disparities, Margo Schlanger

Articles

For this Introduction, I undertake to look a bit more broadly at recent data. The best sources of demographic information about prisoners are the various surveys and censuses conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). While no BJS publication directly addresses the issue, and no BJS dataset allows its full analysis, it is possible to glean something from the most recent BJS prison census, the 2005 Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities.


Mandatory Sentencing And Racial Disparity, Assessing The Role Of Prosecutors And The Effects Of Booker, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi Jan 2013

Mandatory Sentencing And Racial Disparity, Assessing The Role Of Prosecutors And The Effects Of Booker, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi

Articles

This Article presents new empirical evidence concerning the effects of United States v. Booker, which loosened the formerly mandatory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, on racial disparities in federal criminal cases. Two serious limitations pervade existing empirical literature on sentencing disparities. First, studies focus on sentencing in isolation, controlling for the “presumptive sentence” or similar measures that themselves result from discretionary charging, plea-bargaining, and fact-finding processes. Any disparities in these earlier processes are excluded from the resulting sentence-disparity estimates. Our research has shown that this exclusion matters: pre-sentencing decision-making can have substantial sentence-disparity consequences. Second, existing studies have used loose causal inference …


Ask And What Shall Ye Receive? A Guide For Using And Interpreting What Jurors Tell Us, Barbara O'Brien, Samuel R. Sommers, Phoebe C. Ellsworth Jan 2011

Ask And What Shall Ye Receive? A Guide For Using And Interpreting What Jurors Tell Us, Barbara O'Brien, Samuel R. Sommers, Phoebe C. Ellsworth

Articles

We review the extensive body of studies relying on jurors' self-reports in interviews or questionnaires, with a focus on potential threats to validity for researchers seeking to answer particularly provocative questions such as the influence of race in jury decision-making. We then offer a more focused case study comparison of interview and questionnaire data with behavioral data in the domain of race and juror decision-making. Our review suggests that the utility of data obtained from juror interviews and questionnaire responses varies considerably depending on the question under investigation. We close with an evaluation of the types of empirical questions most …


Starting Out: Changing Patterns Of First Jobs For Michigan Law School Graduates, Terry K. Adams, David L. Chambers Jan 2009

Starting Out: Changing Patterns Of First Jobs For Michigan Law School Graduates, Terry K. Adams, David L. Chambers

Articles

In the early 1950s, the typical graduate of Michigan Law began his career working as an associate in a law firm with four other lawyers and earned about $5,000 in his first year. Surprising to us today, in his new job he would have earned slightly less than other classmates whose first jobs were in government. Fifty years later, in the early 2000s, the typical graduate still started out as an associate in a law firm, but the firm she worked for had more than 400 lawyers. She earned about $114,000 in her first year, about three times as much …


Who We Were And Who We Are: How Michigan Law Students Have Changed Since The 1950s: Findings From 40 Years Of Alumni Surveys, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams Jan 2009

Who We Were And Who We Are: How Michigan Law Students Have Changed Since The 1950s: Findings From 40 Years Of Alumni Surveys, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams

Articles

For 40 consecutive years, from 1967 to 2006, the Law School surveyed its alumni regarding their lives and careers. The project began in 1967 with the mailing of a questionnaire to the class of 1952 shortly before their 15th reunion. The results proved interesting enough that surveys were sent each year thereafter to the class 15 years out. In 1973, the classes 5 years out were added to the survey.


Documenting Discrimination In Voting: Judicial Findings Under Section 2 Of The Voting Rights Act Since 1982, Ellen D. Katz, Margaret Aisenbrey, Anna Baldwin, Emma Cheuse, Anna Weisbrodt Jan 2006

Documenting Discrimination In Voting: Judicial Findings Under Section 2 Of The Voting Rights Act Since 1982, Ellen D. Katz, Margaret Aisenbrey, Anna Baldwin, Emma Cheuse, Anna Weisbrodt

Other Publications

The Voting Rights Initiative ("VRI") at the University of Michigan Law School was created during the winter of 2005 to help inform [...] the debates that led to this latest congressional reauthorization and the legal challenge to it that is certain to follow. A cooperative research venture involving 100 students working under faculty direction set out to produce a detailed portrait of litigation brought since 1982 under Section 2. This Report evaluates the results of that survey. The comprehensive data set may be found in a searchable form at http://www.votingreport.org or http://www.sitemaker.umich.edu/votingrights. The aim of this report and the accompanying …


Documenting Discrimination In Voting: Judicial Findings Under Section 2 Of The Voting Rights Act Since 1982, Ellen D. Katz, Margaret Aisenbrey, Anna Baldwin, Emma Cheuse, Anna Weisbrodt Dec 2005

Documenting Discrimination In Voting: Judicial Findings Under Section 2 Of The Voting Rights Act Since 1982, Ellen D. Katz, Margaret Aisenbrey, Anna Baldwin, Emma Cheuse, Anna Weisbrodt

Other Publications

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of one of the most remarkable and consequential pieces of congressional legislation ever enacted. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("the VRA") targeted massive disfranchisement of African-American citizens in numerous Southern states. It imposed measures drastic in scope and extraordinary in effect. The VRA eliminated the use of literacy tests and other "devices" that Southern jurisdictions had long employed to prevent black residents from registering and voting. The VRA imposed on these jurisdictions onerous obligations to prove to federal officials that proposed changes to their electoral system would not discriminate against minority voters. Resistance …


The Real Impact Of Eliminating Affirmative Action In American Law Schools: An Empirical Critique Of Richard Sander's Study, David L. Chambers, Timothy T. Clydesdale, William C. Kidder, Richard O. Lempert Jan 2005

The Real Impact Of Eliminating Affirmative Action In American Law Schools: An Empirical Critique Of Richard Sander's Study, David L. Chambers, Timothy T. Clydesdale, William C. Kidder, Richard O. Lempert

Articles

In 1970, there were about 4000 African American lawyers in the United States. Today there are more than 40,000. The great majority of the 40,000 have attended schools that were once nearly all-white, and most were the beneficiaries of affirmative action in their admission to law school. American law schools and the American bar can justly take pride in the achievements of affirmative action: the training of tens of thousands of African American (as well as Latino, Asian American, and Native American) practitioners, community leaders, judges, and law professors; the integration of the American bar; the services that minority attorneys …


How Much Do We Really Know About Race And Juries? A Review Of Social Science Theory And Research, Samuel R. Sommers, Phoebe C. Ellsworth Jan 2003

How Much Do We Really Know About Race And Juries? A Review Of Social Science Theory And Research, Samuel R. Sommers, Phoebe C. Ellsworth

Articles

The past decade has witnessed numerous high-profile criminal trials in which controversial verdicts have been attributed to racethe race of the defendant, the racial composition of a jury, an attorney "playing the race card," and so on. A predominantly Black jury's acquittal of O.J. Simpson and White jurors' leniency in the police brutality cases of Rodney King and Amadou Diallo not only sparked public debate, but also led to rioting and violence. In the wake of trials such as these, many have questioned the viability of the American jury system.' More specific questions regarding the influence of race on jury …


Road Work: Racial Profiling And Drug Interdiction On The Highway, Samuel R. Gross, Katherine Y. Bames Jan 2002

Road Work: Racial Profiling And Drug Interdiction On The Highway, Samuel R. Gross, Katherine Y. Bames

Articles

Hypocrisy about race is hardly new in America, but the content changes. Recently the spotlight has been on racial profiling. The story of Colonel Carl Williams of the New Jersey State Police is a wellknown example. On Sunday, February 28, 1999, the Newark Star Ledger published a lengthy interview with Williams in which he talked about race and drugs: "Today... the drug problem is cocaine or marijuana. It is most likely a minority group that's involved with that."4 Williams condemned racial profiling - "As far as racial profiling is concerned, that is absolutely not right. It never has been con-doned …


Myths And Facts About Affirmative Action, Richard O. Lempert, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams Jan 2001

Myths And Facts About Affirmative Action, Richard O. Lempert, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams

Articles

The case against affirmative action in admissions to institutions of higher education is based on the moral attractiveness of colorblind decision making and buttressed by a sense that such programs are not just unfair but pointless. Their intended beneficiaries, the argument goes, are put in situations in which they are unable to compete with whites and not only perform poorly but are destructively demoralized in the process. Common to arguments against affirmative action in admissions is a belief that minorities advantaged by it displace whites who are more deserving of admission because they have accomplished more, can better benefit from …


Michigan's Minority Graduates In Practice: The River Runs Through Law School, Richard O. Lempert, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams Jan 2000

Michigan's Minority Graduates In Practice: The River Runs Through Law School, Richard O. Lempert, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams

Articles

This paper reports the results of a 1997-98 survey designed to explore the careers of the University of Michigan Law School's minority graduates from the classes of 1970 through 1996, and of a random sample of Michigan Law School's white alumni who graduated during the same years. It is to date the most detailed quantitative exploration of how minority students fare after they graduate from law school and enter law practice or related careers. The results reveal that almost all of Michigan Law School's minority graduates pass a bar exam and go on to have careers that appear successful by …


Michigan's Minority Graduates In Practice: Answers To Methodological Queries, Richard O. Lempert, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams Jan 2000

Michigan's Minority Graduates In Practice: Answers To Methodological Queries, Richard O. Lempert, David L. Chambers, Terry K. Adams

Articles

Before making a few remarks in response to those who commented on our article (Lempert, Chambers, and Adams 2000), we would like to express our gratitude to the editors of Law and Social Inquiry for securing these commentaries and to the people who wrote them. The comments both highlight the potential uses to which our research and similar studies may be put and give us the opportunity to address methodological concerns and questions that other readers of our article may share with those who commented on it. The responses to our work are of two types. Professors Nelson, Payne, and …


The African American, Latino, And Native American Graduates Of One American Law School, 1970-1996, David L. Chambers, Richard O. Lempert, Terry K. Adams Jan 1999

The African American, Latino, And Native American Graduates Of One American Law School, 1970-1996, David L. Chambers, Richard O. Lempert, Terry K. Adams

Articles

In the spring of 1965, only one African American student and no Latino students attended the University of Michigan Law School. At the time, Michigan, like most American law schools, was a training place for white males. In 1966, the law school faculty adopted a new admissions policy that took race into account as a plus factor in the admissions process. This policy of affirmative action has taken many forms over the years, but, across the decades of the 1970's, the 1980's and the 1990's, about 800 African Americans, 350 Latinos, 200 Asian Americans and 100 Native Americans have graduated …


Doing Well And Doing Good: The Careers Of Minority And White Graduates Of The University Of Michigan Law School, David L. Chambers, Richard O. Lempert, Terry K. Adams Jan 1999

Doing Well And Doing Good: The Careers Of Minority And White Graduates Of The University Of Michigan Law School, David L. Chambers, Richard O. Lempert, Terry K. Adams

Articles

Of the more than 1,000 law students attending the University of Michigan Law School in the spring of 1965, only one was African American. The Law School faculty, in response, decided to develop a program to attract more African American students. One element of this program was the authorization of a deliberately race-conscious admissiosn process. By the mid-1970s, at least 25 African American students were represented in each graduating class. By the late 1970s, Latino and Native American students were included in the program as well. Over the nearly three decades between 1970 and 1998, the admissions efforts and goals …


State Responses To Task Force Reports On Race And Ethnic Bias In The Courts, Suellyn Scarnecchia Jan 1993

State Responses To Task Force Reports On Race And Ethnic Bias In The Courts, Suellyn Scarnecchia

Articles

While several states have embarked on studies of race and ethnic bias in their courts, Minnesota is only the sixth to publish its report to date. As Minnesota joins the ranks of states with published reports, it is worthwhile to assess the impact of the five earlier published reports from other states. Final reports have been published in Michigan (1989), Washington (1990), New York (1991), Florida (1991) and New Jersey (1992). The published reports make findings and provide several specific recommendations for change. This article will review the published findings and recommendations of the task forces and will discuss the …


Salt Survey: Minority Group Persons In Law School Teaching, David L. Chambers Jan 1982

Salt Survey: Minority Group Persons In Law School Teaching, David L. Chambers

Articles

In the summer and fall of 1981 we sent questionnaires to faculty members1 at all 172 law schools accredited by the AALS, asking questions about current numbers of minority group members and women on their faculties and about numbers of offers made and offers accepted, tenure decisions and denials, and resignations. Our principal goal was to measure the progress that has been achieved in adding minorities and women to law faculties. In this issue, we report on our findings about minority groups.