The title of this post is the title of this interesting new empirical paper now on SSRN authored by David Abrams, Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry and Arnaud Philippe. Here is its abstract:

In this paper, we show that sentencing norms vary widely even across geographically close units.  By examining North Carolina’s unique judicial rotation system, we show that judges arriving in a new court gradually converge to local sentencing norms.  We document factors that facilitate this convergence and show that sentencing norms are predicted by preferences of the local constituents.  We build on these empirical results to analyze theoretically the delegation trade-off faced by a social planner: the judge can learn the local norm, but only at the cost of potential capture.