What is the Value of Judicial Sentencing Experience? Exploring Judge Trajectories Using Longitudinal Data
Aim: Judicial experience is considered essential for proper functioning of sentencing system. We investigate its role in reducing sentencing disparity and how it influences judicial decisions. Methods: We analyze all Czech criminal decisions including judge identifiers over 11 years, enabling us to make use of the longitudinal research design. This allows us to measure experience directly via the number of criminal cases processed. We employ growth-curve models to assess between judge variability across their careers. Results: As judges become more experienced, between judge disparities in imposing prison sentence and in deciding on its length, on a number of imposed sanctions, on a guilt and via a shortened procedure were reduced. More experienced judges imposed more non-suspended prison sentences, decided fewer cases via shortened procedure and found fewer offenders guilty. Yet increased experience did not on average influence length of non-suspended prison sentence, number of imposed sanctions or the probability of decisions being appealed. Conclusion: Experience is instrumental for judicial decision-making, contributing to higher consistency of judicial decision making.