Alex Robbins, one of the authors (along with Lynda Lao) of The Effect of Presumptions: An Empirical Examination of Inter-Circuit Sentencing Disparities After United States v. Booker, was among the many up-and-coming scholars who participated in the poster session at last weekend's Second Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies. (The CELS poster session continues to be one of the conference's highlights.) The paper, previously noted in a recent post at the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog, will certainly interest criminal law and sentencing law scholars. A snippet from the paper's abstract follows:
"In the two years since United States v. Booker, the circuits have divided over how to use the Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines when reviewing sentences imposed by district courts. Seven circuits have held that a sentence within the Guidelines range is entitled to a presumption of reasonableness on appeal; five have held that it is not. Although the Supreme Court's recent holding in Rita v. United States allows the courts of appeals to adopt a presumption of reasonableness for within-Guidelines sentences, it does not require them to, and so the circuit split remains.
Using this circuit split as a natural experiment, we undertake what we believe to be the first statistically robust analysis of the effect of a presumption of reasonableness on sentences imposed at the federal district court level. Specifically, using 145,047 individual-level observations recorded by the United States Sentencing Commission (comprising all recorded federal sentences in all twelve circuits for a one-year period beginning in November 2004 and ending in October 2006), we perform a multivariate regression analysis to determine how a circuit's adoption or rejection of a presumption of reasonableness for within-Guidelines sentences affects the frequency with which district courts impose below-Guidelines sentences. We find that a circuit's adoption of a presumption of reasonableness decreases the frequency of below-Guidelines sentences by less than one percent, although this result is statistically significant."