Uncharted Territory: A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Inter-district Variation in the Federal Criminal Justice System

  • Eisenstein, James J. (PI)
  • Kramer, John J.H. (CoPI)
  • Ulmer, Jeffrey Todd (CoPI)
  • Miller, Lisa L.L. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This research will advance theoretical understanding of criminal courts by applying the concepts of court community and decision makers' focal concerns to the Federal Criminal Justice System (FCJS). Its central working hypothesis is that differences in federal criminal court communities help account for inter-district differences in case disposition procedures and outcomes. With few exceptions, existing quantitative empirical research on the FCJS has focused only on the sentencing stage. It usually ignores inter-district variation in disposition procedures and outcomes. As the first empirical, theoretically oriented study of the FCJS, this study will achieve a second purpose: It will significantly expand our knowledge of the FCJS by looking at decision stages prior to sentencing and assessing the nature and causes of inter-district differences. This research employs analysis of quantitative data and interviews with FCJS officials. Phase I includes pretest interviews with key decision makers in a large federal court community and with key staff in the Department of Justice and quantitative examination of differences in outcomes and disposition modes by district. Phase II will involve interviews in six districts selected for variation by size of court and by case disposition techniques and in Washington, DC. Interviews will be conducted in two stages: The first will explore decision-making patterns informed by knowledge gained from the phase I quantitative analysis; in the second, re-interviews in these districts will focus on questions and hypotheses generated by analysis of the first stage.

Effective start/end date9/15/018/31/04


  • National Science Foundation: $255,000.00


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