A new study suggests that Republican-appointed judges give harsher sentences to black defendants — and shorter ones to women — than those appointed by Democrats.
The New York Times reported that the study conducted by Harvard Law professors Alma Cohen and Crystal S. Yang extrapolates common understandings about the sentencing differences between GOP and Democrat-appointed judges.
“Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants to three more months than similar nonblacks and female defendants to two fewer months than similar males compared to Democratic-appointed judges,” Cohen and Yang’s study reads. “These differences cannot be explained by other judge characteristics and grow substantially larger when judges are granted more discretion.”
The study took data from half a million defendants — many of which were tried on drug offenses — and 1,400 federal trial judges over a period of more than 15 years. Yang and Cohen’s study includes a number of surprising data points, such as their finding that Republican-appointed black judges tend to be more lenient with black defendants than their white counterparts. They also found that judges “in states with higher levels of racism,” which they qualified with regional popular support for interracial marriage laws, were harsher on black defendants as well.
Though they warn that “the precise reasons why these disparities by political affiliation exist remain unknown,” Cohen and Yang foretold that the Trump administration’s notable judge-appointing speed is likely to widen the racial and gender sentencing gap they observed.