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Judicial Politics and Decisionmaking: A New Approach

PDF · Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, Andrew Wistrich, & Chris Guthrie · Nov-28-2017 · 70 Vand. L. Rev. 2051 (2017)

Judicial Politics and Decisionmaking

ABSTRACT

In twenty-five different experiments conducted on over 2,200 judges, we assessed whether judges’ political ideology influences their resolution of hypothetical cases. Generally, we found that the political ideology of the judge matters, but only very little. Across a range of bankruptcy, criminal, and civil cases, we found that the aggregate effect of political ideology is either nonexistent or amounts to roughly one-quarter of a standard deviation. Overall, the results of our experiments suggest that judges are not “politicians in robes.”

AUTHORS

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski

Henry Allen Mark Professor of Law, Cornell Law School

Andrew J. Wistrich

Magistrate Judge, United States District Court for the Central District of California

Chris Guthrie

Dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School

ABSTRACT

In twenty-five different experiments conducted on over 2,200 judges, we assessed whether judges’ political ideology influences their resolution of hypothetical cases. Generally, we found that the political ideology of the judge matters, but only very little. Across a range of bankruptcy, criminal, and civil cases, we found that the aggregate effect of political ideology is either nonexistent or amounts to roughly one-quarter of a standard deviation. Overall, the results of our experiments suggest that judges are not “politicians in robes.”



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