Working Papers

Randomness Pre-considered: Making Unbiased Causal Inference Through the Random Assignment of Judges

Abstract: This article adds to the growing literature challenging the general assumptions of random judicial assignment by identifying a set of common assignment procedures that I call “de-randomizing” events. These events, which include non-random assignment itself, should be accounted for in order to make unbiased causal claims but are commonly either ignored or not even recognized by researchers utilizing random judicial assignment. This article also attempts to fill in what others have noted to be a dearth of information on the assignment protocols of courts other than the U.S. Courts of Appeals by presenting original data from a survey of 60 state-level criminal courts, outlining their assignment protocols, and identifying the extent to which they feature the “de-randomizing” events mentioned above.

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Please Recuse Yourself: A Field Experiment Exploring the Relationship Between Campaign Donations and Judicial Recusal

For the integrity of this ongoing study, we are not publicly releasing a draft or an abstract. Please contact me if you would like more information on this project ().

Experiments, Courts, and the Legal Process: The Legal Implications of Running Randomized Experiments in the Courtroom (with Jacob Kopas)

Abstract: Although legal scholars have been utilizing experimental methodologies for over 60 years, they have only recently begun to design and implement field experiments, an empirical method in which subjects are randomly assigned treatments in natural settings. Field experiments are a powerful tool for identifying causal relationships, but relative to observational studies, where researchers gather data that already exist, field experiments can be problematic because they require the researcher to actively intervene in the subjects’ lives. Because of these interventions, researchers and organizations running experiments must address a number of ethical concerns before they start their study. When field experiments take place in the court context, these ethical concerns become even more salient, and researchers must also take into account the legal implications of randomizing interventions in actual court cases. In this article, we explore the legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of court-based field experiments. It is the only assessment of its kind, and should be a useful tool for researchers and organizations interested in conducting such projects, institutional review boards responsible for approving such studies, judges tasked with evaluating the reliability of data resulting from court-based field experimentation, and individuals considering legal action based on experimental results.

We have not released a public version of this paper. Please contact me if you would like a copy of our current draft ().