Discussion paper

DP13587 When in Rome... on local norms and sentencing decisions

In this paper, we show that sentencing norms vary widely even across geographically close units. By examining North Carolina's unique judicial rotation system, we show that judges arriving in a new court gradually converge to local sentencing norms. We document factors that facilitate this convergence and show that sentencing norms are predicted by preferences of the local constituents. We build on these empirical results to analyze theoretically the delegation trade-off faced by a social planner: the judge can learn the local norm, but only at the cost of potential capture.


Galbiati, R, E Henry, A Philippe and D Abrams (2019), ‘DP13587 When in Rome... on local norms and sentencing decisions‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13587. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp13587