Note: if you read this entire post, please note in the comments section. We have statistical comparison (betting pool) on this factor. -- Melody
Prologue: So we are working on a statistical instrument to measure
different plea bargaining strategies. The following is an email thread
discussing our approach. Dan Hansmeier, Carl Folsom, Melody Evans, and myself
(Kirk Redmond) are quoted. The names of Judges are redacted to protect the innocent.
Spoiler (from Kirk) - Dan is wrong, but funnier and more profane than
We are getting close to having enough data to analyze. The
question is what to do with it. One of the ideas was that we would normalize
between judges by adding a coefficient. The idea was to compare the SD (sentence
differential: sentence expected minus sentence imposed) for each judge against
the low end, and add a multiplier. If Judge XXXX sentences illegal re-entry
defendants at 1.21 times the low end of the guideline range, we should multiply
the sentence expected by 1.21 to account for how s/he actually sentences
defendants. This is a recognition that a low end sentence is not the
expectation in front of Judge XXXX in a 1326 case.
But it occurred to me just now, because I'm dense, that this
approach should not extend across all plea options. Binding pleas don't affect
what the judge can do to the client, unless it is rejected, which we keep track
of separately. 5K motions don't affect what the judge does, because they are [almost]
always followed. Charge bargains are a more difficult question. They usually
leave the ultimate sentence up to the judge.
I think we should only apply the multiplier in open plea and no plea
agreement cases. The other plea (or acquittal) options don't measure judicial
performance. We need to get this straight before we set up the database.
Doesn't this coefficient obliterate the known comparator (the
low end of the Guidelines range)?
I don't follow the coefficient. I don't understand why we
need to fudge the numbers to recognize that some judges vary downward in
certain cases. The actual numbers, compared to the Guidelines range, will tell
us that, right?
And how does the coefficient affect our ability to compare
judges? I'm lost when I try to imagine that scenario.
And I'm not following. How is the low end of the guideline
range the baseline if a particular judge doesn't sentence at the low end in a
particular case type? Assuming that the low end is a stable result seems dumb
if the data doesn't agree. It's not fudging the data, it's adjusting for the
You lost me. The low end is the low end because, by
definition, it is the low end. It is the one constant that allows a
cross-comparison. It is why that brilliantly odd KU professor [edit: Not who
you might be thinking of if you know what we are doing] got a boner when we
talked with him that day. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that as soon as
the low end is something other than the low end, it is impossible to compare
between judges. Well, at least impossible to make a meaningful comparison
between judges. And it makes it more difficult to advise clients.
Wouldn't this be like adjusting ERA based on the strength of
the opposing team? Or maybe awarding less than or more than one steal based on
the arm strength of the opposing catcher? Is that similar to what the
coefficient does? Does Billy Beane do this shit?
We don't throw out the low end. We see whether judges
actually adhere to it.
This is like baseball guys adjusting for the park in which
the team plays. Say a guy hits 38 home runs. It matters whether he plays 81
games at Coors Field or 81 games at Petco (before they moved the fences in this
year). If you are considering signing that guy as a free agent, you have to
know whether those home runs were a product of his skill or a product of the
park he played in.
Or with your ERA example, you have to consider the defense
behind the pitcher. A pitcher’s ERA may be low because he is awesome, or it may
be low because he puts the ball in play a lot and the defense goes and catches
For the same reason, it matters what court you are in when
determining what approach to take to a given case. Returning to the example of
Judge XXXX sentencing a 1326 case, it will be useful for the client to know
whether s/he generally sentences defendants to the low end of the guideline
range. I suspect that is not true. But we will be able to find out soon enough.
If s/he does not, we can see how far away from the low end s/he generally
imposes sentence. That is a critical piece of advice for clients- is a low-end
recommendation worth bargaining for? Because if it’s not, we should try to lock
in a binding plea, even if it's just to the low end.
The inverse is Judge XXXX on a drug case. If s/he is
statistically likely to vary downward, then why would you ever enter a low-end
plea agreement? More specifically, if Judge XXXX sentences drug cases at .89 of
the low end, shouldn't you always plead open and argue for a variance? You
can't find that out if you use low end as an unaltered constant.
Carl is enjoying this from afar.
Redmond's Coefficient. My children will study this one day.
Well, the younger one. The older one might not make it out of preschool.
Suspiciously, your hyperlinks did not work.
I'm still missing the value in it. We are not scouting
judges. We are comparing them. Right? And, for a valid comparison, one that is
statistically significant, the key is a stable comparator. We have that. The
guidelines range is the equivalent of the universal ball park, or the universal
defense. Or the entire universe. It allows us to compare judge behavior in all
types of cases. And our numbers will answer your proposed questions without the
application of Redmond's Coefficient. If XXXX comes in below the range in drug
cases, our numbers tell us that, and we know not to enter into a low-end plea
What if we created two sets of numbers: one based on
Redmond's Coefficient, and the other based on a straight statistical comparison
with the Guidelines range? Or are we doing that? Is Redmond's Coefficient like
a bonus? Is it like a Lorenzo Cain bobblehead? Because if so, I'm not going to
argue against it. I love bobbleheads.
So, should Clayton Kershaw's ERA depend upon the team he
faces? Should he be allowed 2 earned runs per inning when he faces the Cards
because the Cards own him? Should he not be allowed any earned runs when he
faces the Cubs because the Cubs are, well, the Cubs?
Have you written Rob Manfred a letter about this yet? Can you
set up a fantasy baseball league where the stats are based on Redmond's
least the response he was writing before I got in first)
Hilariously enough, this is the unfinished response I started
I think it's more like adjusting the ERA based on the park
the team is playing in (park factor) or the defense they pitch in front of. The
same fly ball out in Kauffman might be a home run in Yankee Stadium. Just like
a low end sentence might be a poor result with a really favorable judge, but it
might be a good result with a tough judge.
The league ERA in Kauffman is lower than it is in Yankee
Stadium. This is true even when other factors are accounted for. So a pitcher
with a 4.50 ERA who plays for the Royals is a worse pitcher than one with a
4.50 ERA who plays for the Yankees.
So if the league average ERA is 4.50, this is like the SE.
Getting the average ERA or the low end is an average result. But if a certain
judge always gives high end of the range on child porn cases, or another judge
always gives downward variances - because he/she thinks the use of computer
enhancement is bullshit, that should be accounted for.
Just like the SD will be worse for certain judges than other
judges. Getting a 20-month variance (below the Low end (SE)) from XXXX will
probably be a hell of a lot harder than in front of XXXX.
What Carl actually
I think we're scouting judges against the guidelines. And
we're scouting our own performance against what the judges usually do (Redmond
Like a Rockies pitcher with a 4.50 ERA is probably better
than a Royals pitcher with a 4.50 ERA (adjusting for home park and defense).
I cannot believe that Carl just conceded that a Rockies
pitcher is "probably better" than a Royals pitcher.
What the fuck is going on around here?
I'd also note the phrase "against the guidelines"
Carl used in the first sentence. I think that is exactly right. The Guidelines
do not adjust based on the courtroom or the judge (like ERAs and ballparks).
I feel like a member of the Sentencing Commission.
What the fuck is going on around here?
Let's continue this email until the end of time.
The guidelines comparator stays in the equation, always. But
our current assumption of a low-end default is just a starting point. And it
will probably be the ending point with some Judges, like XXXX. But that's not
universally true. Judge XXXX says that he starts in the middle of the guideline
range, and after looking at all of his drug sentences, I believe him.
Evaluating whether a government recommendation influences his sentencing
decision seems important. Anecdotally, I don't think it influences XXXX.
Dan, I will set up the database so that if you prefer to
ignore the judge deciding the sentence, you can.
I want a XXXX bobblehead.
I can probably make this happen. Karen and I had personalized
bobble heads on our wedding cake. Ordered from England.
I have my own bobblehead as well. I thought everyone did. I
think some kid in Asia made mine. It is like the bobblehead equivalent
to a blood diamond.
I don't want to ignore the judge. I think I want the option
to ignore your coefficient. Can we have it both ways? Will the numbers tell me
where the judge falls with respect to the guidelines range? Or will the numbers
tell me where the judge falls with respect to some point created by Redmond's
Coefficient? Do I get to know both of those things?
And yes, Hansmeier's Coefficient is in its development stage.
I'm researching Ricky Henderson's stolen-base record as we speak . . . .