Beim, Deborah, Tom S. Clark, and Benjamin E. Lauderdale, "The Effects of Panel Assignment on the US Court of Appeals in Death Penalty Cases"
We use the quasi-random assignment of cases to three-judge panels on the US Courts of Appeals to assess the consistency of adjudication of death penalty appeals. We find clear evidence that panels apply different standards depending on whether a majority of the panel was appointed by Democratic or Republican presidents. Unlike previous work on panel effects in the US Courts of Appeals, we show that these effects persist to the end of the process of adjudication. Since the the early 1980s, across the US as a whole, the probability of ultimate execution has depended on the judges that were assigned to an inmate's first Court of Appeals case.
Clark, Tom S., B. Pablo Montagnes, and Jörg L. Spenkuch, "Politics from the Bench? Ideology and Strategic Voting in the Us Supreme Court"
Supreme Court justices often vote along ideological lines. Is this due to a genuinely different interpretation of the law, or does it reflect justices' desire to re- solve politically-charged legal questions in accordance with their personal views? To study this question, we differentiate between votes that were pivotal and those that were not. We find that, when a justice's choice determines the outcome of a case, her ideology plays an even greater role in determining her decision|both relative to her choices on other cases and relative to other justices voting on the same case. The data allow us to reject theories of sincere voting as well as explanations according to which ambiguous signals about the merits of a case force justices to fall back on ideology as a form of tie breaker. Our counterfactuals suggest that "politics from the bench" determines the outcome of approximately 8% of 5-4 splits.
Cohen, Elisha, Anna Gunderson, Kaylyn Jackson, Tom S. Clark, Adam Glynn, and Michael Leo Owens, “Does Military Aid to Police Decrease Crime? Counterevidence from the Federal 1033 Program and Local Police Jurisdictions in the United States”. Currently under review. Please email me for a copy.
The profile of American policing, from its physical appearance to its tactical operations, continues to change, aided by federal grants-in-aid programs for local law enforcement agencies to acquire surplus military equipment. Recent econometric studies of the effects of federal subsidies of subnational police militarization in the United States, particularly transfers of surplus military equipment via the 1033 Program of the U.S. Department of Defense, imply that crime decreases and other positive benefits accrue for law enforcement and order maintenance when local police agencies have more military-grade equipment. Leveraging newly-available data, we replicate and extend two of the most prominent of these studies. Our results challenge the validity of extant evidence that police militarization associated with the 1033 Program reduces crime and yields other social benefits at the local level.
Clark, Tom S., Adam Glynn, Michael Leo Owens, Elisha Cohen, Anna Gunderson, and Kaylyn Jackson, “Are Police Racially Biased in the Decision to Shoot?”
Racial disparities in policing have been a subject of intense interest throughout the history of American politics. Recent events have focused attention on the use of lethal force against Black Americans. Evaluating whether observed patterns can be attributed to racial bias has proven difficult, though, because of the lack of systematic data and inability to properly account for confounding factors that influence the use of lethal force. We develop a formal model of civilian-police interactions and shootings that identifies a test for racial bias that relies on fatality rates, conditional upon shootings. We present original data on all officer-involved shootings from eight American cities. Our analysis finds evidence of racial bias against Black civilians in the decision to use lethal force.