Prof. Kevin CHENG publishes article on sentencing in Journal of Empirical Legal Studies
Posted on 1 September, 2020

Prof. Kevin CHENG has published an article “Judicial Disparity, Deviation, and Departures from Sentencing Guidelines: The Case of Hong Kong” with Ms. Sayaka RI and Dr. Natasha PUSHKARNA in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.

Analyzing sentencing disparity calls for more calibrated measures to capture the nuances of judicial discretion within jurisdictions that adopt strict sentencing guidelines. This article uses an unconventional outcome variable, percent deviation, to investigate guideline digressions in a nested, multilevel model. Percent deviation is calculated based on the difference between the guidelines’ “arithmetic starting point” and the actual starting point that a judge adopts. Two equations were used to measure percent deviation from the arithmetic starting point before and after adjustment for guilty plea sentence reductions. Extracting data on drug trafficking cases from an open‐source database from the Hong Kong Judiciary (n = 356), the authors illustrate how percent deviation can be employed as a measure of inter‐judge disparity using hierarchical linear models (HLMs). The findings suggest that approximately 8 to 10 percent of the deviation in sentence length can be attributed to judges’ differential sentencing behaviors. The deviation is affected by case characteristics as well as judicial characteristics. Due to the wide guideline ranges, departures from said guidelines’ ranges are not common. This indicates that the guideline ranges mask the deviation and inter‐judge disparity that exist and recur.

Read the full article here.