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The Trump administration implemented a controversial performance quota policy for immigration judges in October 2018. The policy’s political motivations were clear: to pressure immigration judges to order more immigration removals and deportations as quickly as possible. Previous attempts by U.S. presidents to control immigration judges were ineffective, but this quota policy was different because it credibly threatened judges’ job security and promotion opportunities if they failed to follow the policy. Our analysis of hundreds of thousands of judicial decisions before and after the policy’s implementation demonstrates that the quota policy successfully led immigration judges to issue more immigration removal orders (both in absentia and merits orders). The post-policy change in behavior was strongest among those judges who were less inclined, pre-policy, to issue immigration removal decisions. These findings have important implications for immigration judge independence, due process protections for noncitizens, and presidential efforts to control the federal bureaucracy.
The federal judicial system is a hierarchy with district courts at the bottom, courts of appeals in the middle, and the Supreme Court at the top. A second, less visible, judicial hierarchy exists within district courts, with magistrate judges situated below district judges. Existing scholarship largely ignores magistrate judges, assuming they are agents tasked with procedural matters with little independent effect on federal courts adjudication. Using a combination of national administrative data (2000–2016) and original case-level data from nine district courts (1997–2014), we find that district courts not only grant meaningful responsibility and discretion to magistrate judges but do so in ways that vary substantially across and within districts. The effects of this judicial delegation extend from procedural rulings to substantive outcomes. Our findings provide evidence that a complete understanding of federal judicial decision making accounts for the roles—procedural and substantive—that magistrate judges perform.
Relying on research that posits that female leaders and managers will be more likely than men to adopt a management style that favors participation, collaboration, and consensus building, I argue that female district court judges, using this style in their case management environments, should be more likely than their male colleagues to successfully foster intracourt case settlements. To test this, I compile data from nearly 18,000 civil rights and tort cases terminated in four federal district courts across 9 years. The regression and duration analyses provide confirmation that the sex of a case’s assigned judge matters, with female judges successfully fostering settlement in their cases more often and more quickly than their male colleagues. In addition to having significance for litigants, these findings have broad implications for female decision makers across different institutions and organizations as well as the future of the judging profession and diversity appointments to the judiciary.