Friday, June 13, 2008

Judicial Behavior

No, not a post about this, which does appall me, even though I'm pretty broad on the First Amendment (and I agree with Kaimi Wenger on this). No, I'm avoiding blogging on that, even if I do bring the link to your attention.

I actually don't normally consider the private behavior of judges. I'll read the occasional biography, and enjoy reading little humanizing tidbits that endear them to me, even if I violently disagree with their opinions. But it's their public behavior, in the form of written opinions, that most legal scholars focus on. Working on this judicial behavior project for The Policy Prof is most interesting. Whereas Legal Realists and Critical Legal Studies folks have been arguing, emptily, that judges are just politicians in black robes voting their preferences, the good folks over in political science have actually been trying to glean and discern patterns of voting behavior of appellate judges with a longitudinal study with a large N! Imagine that! And it's better than the work of cognitive psychologists, because it actually considers the real voting behavior of real judges, and not just college students in a controlled study.

It turns out that politics doesn't explain everything. Neither does the race of the person, except in criminal cases (apparently judges of color, having had more experience with being stopped for driving while colored, are more sympathetic to the possibility of the unreasonableness of a stop/seizure). Gender does have an effect, and in confluence with norms of collegiality and unanimity on the federal bench, produce immediate and possibly long-term effects on the voting behavior of their fellow judges, particularly in sex discrimination cases. So interesting!

I won't link or give cites here, but email me if you want to learn more. Judicial behavioralism is exciting again!

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