Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=696781
 
 

Citations (18)



 
 

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Can Judges Ignore Inadmissible Information? The Difficulty of Deliberately Disregarding


Jeffrey J. Rachlinski


Cornell Law School

Andrew J. Wistrich


California Central District Court

Chris Guthrie


Vanderbilt University - Law School


University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 153, 2005

Abstract:     
Due process requires courts to make decisions based on the evidence before them without regard to information outside of the record. Skepticism about the ability of jurors to ignore inadmissible information is widespread. Empirical research confirms that this skepticism is well founded. Many courts and commentators, however, assume that judges can accomplish what jurors cannot. This Article reports the results of experiments we have conducted to determine whether judges can ignore inadmissible information. We found that the judges who participated in our experiments struggled to perform this challenging mental task. The judges had difficulty disregarding demands disclosed during a settlement conference, conversation protected by the attorney-client privilege, prior sexual history of an alleged rape victim, prior criminal convictions of a plaintiff, and information the government had promised not to rely upon at sentencing. This information influenced judges' decisions even when they were reminded, or themselves had ruled, that the information was inadmissible. In contrast, the judges were able to ignore inadmissible information obtained in violation of a criminal defendant's right to counsel and the outcome of a search when determining whether probable cause existed. We conclude that judges are generally unable to avoid being influenced by relevant but inadmissible information of which they are aware. Nevertheless, judges displayed a surprising ability to do so in some situations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 96

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Date posted: April 4, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Rachlinski , Jeffrey J. and Wistrich, Andrew J. and Guthrie, Chris, Can Judges Ignore Inadmissible Information? The Difficulty of Deliberately Disregarding. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 153, 2005. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=696781

Contact Information

Jeffrey John Rachlinski (Contact Author)
Cornell Law School ( email )
524 College Ave
Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-5878 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)
Andrew J. Wistrich
California Central District Court ( email )
Los Angeles, CA 90012
United States
Chris Guthrie
Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )
131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-6823 (Phone)
615-322-6631 (Fax)
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