Are Judges Political?: An Empirical Analysis of the Federal Judiciary

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9780815782346: Are Judges Political?: An Empirical Analysis of the Federal Judiciary
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Over the past two decades, the United States has seen an intense debate about the composition of the federal judiciary. Are judges "activists"? Should they stop "legislating from the bench"? Are they abusing their authority? Or are they protecting fundamental rights, in a way that is indispensable in a free society? Are Judges Political? cuts through the noise by looking at what judges actually do. Drawing on a unique data set consisting of thousands of judicial votes, Cass Sunstein and his colleagues analyze the influence of ideology on judicial voting, principally in the courts of appeal. They focus on two questions: Do judges appointed by Republican Presidents vote differently from Democratic appointees in ideologically contested cases? And do judges vote differently depending on the ideological leanings of the other judges hearing the same case? After examining votes on a broad range of issues--including abortion, affirmative action, and capital punishment--the authors do more than just confirm that Democratic and Republican appointees often vote in different ways. They inject precision into an all-too-often impressionistic debate by quantifying this effect and analyzing the conditions under which it holds. This approach sometimes generates surprising results: under certain conditions, for example, Democrat-appointed judges turn out to have more conservative voting patterns than Republican appointees. As a general rule, ideology should not and does not affect legal judgments. Frequently, the law is clear and judges simply implement it, whatever their political commitments. But what happens when the law is unclear? Are Judges Political? addresses this vital question.


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About the Author:

Cass R. Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence and a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. Among his many books are Radicals in Robes: Why Extreme Right-Wing Courts Are Wrong for Americans (Basic Books, 2005) and Why Societies Need Dissent (Harvard University Press, 2005). David Schkade is the Jerome Katzin Professor in the Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego and a coauthor of Punitive Damages: How Juries Decide (University of Chicago Press, 2003). Lisa M. Ellman holds a law degree and a master's degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and is an Associate at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP in Washington, D.C. Andres Sawicki , a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, is currently clerking for the Honorable Robert D. Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Review:

"Recommended." —D. S. Mann, College of Charleston, CHOICE, 5/1/2007



"Recommended for academic and law libraries, as well as court administrators and administrative judges who strive to maintain nonpartisanship on the bench." —Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Library, Library Journal, 9/1/2006



"Not only is this a solid piece of research, it also does a remarkable job of translating complex ideas —long floating around in the social sciences —into prose accessible to a broad audience. This is an important service. Plus, the book couldn't come at a better time. Senators (and presidents), for the most part, understand the ideological component of judging but the public seems to need a reminder. ARE JUDGES POLITICAL? provides just that." —Lee Epstein, Northwestern University



"ARE JUDGES POLITICAL? is thoughtful and careful. It is a terrific empirical introduction to the politics of judicial decisionmaking, an area that is capturing the imagination of many in the legal academy. The analysis of panel effects, which appear to be as large as partisan effects, is especially interesting." —Jeffrey A. Segal, Stony Brook University



"a short, readable, book that gets to implications after only 128 pages of straight-forward, hypothesis-driven, data-mining text. The accessibility of this book makes it a good choice for teachers who want to provoke students to discuss issues on the basis of empirical evidence, and it might lead some students to think about doing this kind of research themselves." — Law and Politics Book Review



"For two decades now U.S. senators have fought fiercely about the appointments of federal appellate judges, all in the belief that the political ideologies of judges affect their decisions. But do they? This dazzling little book answers the question--and the answer is more interesting than we would have thought. ARE JUDGES POLITICAL? will change and deepen the way we think about the law and judges." —Neil Coughlan, Judicial Evaluation Institute, Commonweal, 10/6/2006



"This is a significant book. The judiciary decides many important policy questions in the United States, and in practice the circuit court judiciary is much more important than the Supreme Court. This is evident by the great and growing press and political attention to judicial nominees. ARE JUDGES POLITICAL? greatly informs the debate, with its empirical findings and its discussion of their pragmatic significance." —Frank B. Cross, University of Texas-Austin

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