About the Data

This analysis is based on an extensive database which tracks the case-by-case record of each federal district court judge. It was developed by TRAC and is available on a subscription basis at http://tracfed.syr.edu. Updated monthly, TRAC uses a variety of data sources including detailed case records obtained through a series of lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act.

Because of the way publicly available court records are organized, systematic judge-by-judge comparisons of sentencing decisions had not been readily possible until TRAC undertook this decade-long effort.

One key source obtained through TRAC litigation has been internal files of the the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA). EOUSA utilizes a complex series of internal rules for the kinds of information individual federal prosecutors are required to collect. One aspect of these procedures established an extensive list of criminal enforcement categories drugs, white collar crime, civil rights, official corruption, terrorism, organized crime, weapons, etc. that allow the Justice Department to track how the federal government is enforcing the law. TRAC used the categorization made by federal prosecutors of cases into these "program" categories for the comparisons in this report.