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Monday
Apr062015

Are judges politically biased? New paper, new study, new methods, new body piercings--new new new!

Will have more to say about this new study "tomorrow"-- but if anyone wants to get a head start in commenting/questioning/qualifying/annihilating, dive in.

“Ideology” or “Situation Sense”? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment

Dan M. Kahan, David Hoffman, Danieli Evans, Neal Devins, Eugene Lucci, and Katherine Cheng 

Abstract

This paper reports the results of a study on whether political predispositions influence judicial decisionmaking. The study was designed to overcome the two principal limitations on existing empirical studies that purport to find such an influence: the use of nonexperimental methods to assess the decisions of actual judges; and the failure to use actual judges in ideologically-biased-reasoning experiments. The study involved a sample of sitting judges (n = 253), who, like members of a general public sample (n = 800), were culturally polarized on climate change, marijuana legalization and other contested issues. When the study subjects were assigned to analyze statutory interpretation problems, however, only the responses of the general-public subjects and not those of the judges varied in patterns that reflected the subjects’ cultural values. The responses of a sample of lawyers (= 217) were also uninfluenced by their cultural values; the responses of a sample of law students (n = 284), in contrast, displayed a level of cultural bias only modestly less pronounced than that observed in the general-public sample. Among the competing hypotheses tested in the study, the results most supported the position that professional judgment imparted by legal training and experience confers resistance to identity-protective cognition—a dynamic associated with politically biased information processing generally—but only for decisions that involve legal reasoning. The scholarly and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

 

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Reader Comments (4)

Interesting.

April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

A professor of mine once told a joke.

"I'm a pretty conservative guy. But sometimes I'm not conservative enough for Texas. For example, while I support the death penalty, I also think the defendant deserves to get a fair trial first."

Seems apt.

April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

@Ryan:

Ever see Thin Blue LIne?

"Anyone can convict a guilty guy; takes real lawyerly skill to convict innocent."

--Harry Connick Sr.,

April 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"I'm a pretty conservative guy. But sometimes I'm not conservative enough for Texas. For example, while I support the death penalty, I also think the defendant deserves to get a fair trial first."

:-)

I think I heard a version of the same joke told as part of the abortion debate.

April 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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