Judges are more lenient after lunch

Miller-McCune magazine reports on a new study examining rulings made by Israeli parole board judges in relation to when they had taken a meal break. The study found that a judge who has just taken a break or eaten a meal is significantly more likely to grant a defendant’s request than a judge who is hungry or tired.

In addition to showing up on time and not wearing loud ties, criminal defense attorneys would do well to think about the care and feeding of the judges who hear their clients’ cases.

A hungry, tired judge, it turns out, is much less likely to grant a defendant’s request than one who has just eaten or taken a break. At least that’s the finding of an ingenious new study looking at the rulings made by Israeli parole board judges in relation to when they had taken a meal break.

Overall, prisoners saw a 65 percent success rate if their cases were heard early in the workday or immediately after a judge had eaten, but the number of requests granted dropped to nearly zero just before a break period and at the end of the day.

“This is a pretty stark demonstration of how arbitrary things can be,” says co-author Jonathan Levav,  an associate professor at the Columbia Business School. “On the one hand, it confirms our intuition, and on the other hand it’s terrifying.”

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at 1,112 judicial rulings made by eight Israeli parole board judges over a 10-month period. Each judge heard between 14 and 35 cases in a day and took mid-morning and mid-afternoon meal breaks. The data included the time of day at which the prisoner’s request was considered and its place in the day’s docket.

The full article is available here.

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Pacific-Standard Magazine

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