Saturday, March 5, 2011

Research briefs: Judicial decision making & a tale of two cities executions

I just stumbled upon a great journal that specializes in the empirical study of law--The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. Below are two sample articles. I am going to add this to my list of journals to monitor..and also the journal

Kastellec, J. P. (2010). The Statistical Analysis of Judicial Decisions and Legal Rules with Classification Trees. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 7(2), 202-230.

A key question in the quantitative study of legal rules and judicial decision making is the structure of the relationship between case facts and case outcomes. Legal doctrine and legal rules are general attempts to define this relationship. This article summarizes and utilizes a statistical method relatively unexplored in political science and legal scholarship—classification trees—that offers a flexible way to study legal doctrine. I argue that this method, while not replacing traditional statistical tools for studying judicial decisions, can better capture many aspects of the relationship between case facts and case outcomes. To illustrate the method's advantages, I conduct classification tree analyses of search and seizure cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and confession cases decided by the courts of appeals. These analyses illustrate the ability of classification trees to increase our understanding of legal rules and legal doctrine

Zimring, F. E., Fagan, J., & Johnson, D. T. (2010). Executions, Deterrence, and Homicide: A Tale of Two Cities. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 7(1), 1-29.

We compare homicide rates in two quite similar cities with vastly different execution risks. Singapore had an execution rate close to one per million per year until an explosive 20-fold increase in 1994–1995 and 1996 to a level that we show was probably the highest in the world. Then, over the next 11 years, Singapore executions dropped by about 95 percent. Hong Kong, by contrast, had no executions at all during the last generation and abolished capital punishment in 1993. Homicide levels and trends are remarkably similar in these two cities over the 35 years after 1973, with neither the surge in Singapore executions nor the more recent steep drop producing any differential impact. By comparing two closely matched places with huge contrasts in actual execution but no differences in homicide trends, we have generated a unique test of the exuberant claims of deterrence that have been produced over the past decade in the United States

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