Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Previous research found gender to be a primary consideration of judges in terms of actions towards defendants. Blameworthiness, the combined effect of criminal history, offense severity, and the defendant's role in the criminal event, is also known to impact judge's actions. Little, though, is known about how gender and blameworthiness, combined, may be related to judges' actions towards white-collar defendants. The purpose of this case study, therefore, was to explore whether defendant gender and blameworthiness impact judicial actions towards defendants charged with white-collar crime(s) in a federal district court of New York. The theoretical framework was Demuth and Steffensmeier's theory of focal concerns. Research questions focused on the impacts of defendants' gender and blameworthiness in general and with regard to bail and restitution decisions. Data consisted of published court case summaries for 1,162 criminal cases heard by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York between 2009 and 2015. These data were analyzed via an inductive coding process and then subjected to content analysis. Themes that emerged revealed that all facets of blameworthiness impacted restitution while only the seriousness of the offense impacted bail decisions. Further, gender was found to impact judge's actions in subtler ways than in prior research. For example, analysis revealed slight modifications in word choice in the case summaries that appeared to be connected to the gender of the defendant, particularly related to restitution decisions. The results of this study may be used to courts and Congress to enhance existing statutes and guidelines directed at decreasing the impact of gender and blameworthiness on defendants by the justice system.