CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Vilaca et al. on Anti Political Class Bias in Corruption Sentencing

Luiz VilacaMarco Morucci, and Victoria Paniagua (University of Notre Dame, New York University and Duke University) have posted Anti Political Class Bias in Corruption Sentencing on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Are corruption trials that involve the highest-ranks in the public sphere and large private companies biased? In this paper, we seek to answer this question by studying the prosecution and treatment in the courts of elected politicians, bureaucrats, and businesspeople involved in Brazil’s famous “Operação Lava Jato” (Operation Car Wash), the largest corruption and money laundering investigation carried out in history. Leveraging both an original database that traces the trajectory of the universe of the 3,154 cases opened as part of Lava Jato, as well as 46 qualitative interviews, we show that judges' sentencing decisions were not governed by a partisan logic. Instead, we find that judges were harsher when sentencing any elected politician compared to all other defendants in the public and private sectors. We conceptualize these findings as evidence of a type of political bias in courts that has been previously unexplored, anti-political class bias.

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