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Review 2 of "Use of the federal guidelines while maneuvering to achieve 'justice': A non-participant observational study of judicial sentencing discretion in illegal reentry cases in a U.S. District Court"

Published onOct 08, 2020
Review 2 of "Use of the federal guidelines while maneuvering to achieve 'justice': A non-participant observational study of judicial sentencing discretion in illegal reentry cases in a U.S. District Court"

Vote: Publish pending minor changes1


The manuscript is an important addition to the literature on judicial decision making. It uses nonparticipant court observation to examine the court actors in one district court system where defendants in illegal entry cases were sentenced based on the federal sentencing guidelines. The study examines the interaction between these actors and determines the legal factors that affect the sentencing outcome, based on the existence of a plea agreement, agreement/disagreement between the prosecution and defense regarding the sentence requested, criminal offense history and category. It shows the difficulty of regarding defendants as similarly situated for the purposes of the sentencing guidelines because of legal and other factors considered by the judge. The analysis shows that judges have varying degrees of constraint on their exercise of judicial decision making. One limitation of the study is that it only examines one court and one particular offense. However, the study sheds light on an important issue regarding the dynamics in the interactions of court actors. The indepth analysis of the case history of the defendants provide a nuanced understanding of the factors that may have influenced the judges’ ultimate sentencing decisions.

Just one typo/grammatical error that needs to be fixed on page 8: “However, an important limitation of the USSC data is that all plea agreement is an origin of an outside of the guideline range sentence.” 

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