Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Blinking on the Bench: How Judges Decide Cases

42 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2007  

Chris Guthrie

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski

Cornell Law School

Andrew J. Wistrich

California Central District Court

Abstract

How do judges judge? Do they apply law to facts in a mechanical and deliberative way, as the formalists suggest they do, or do they rely on hunches and gut feelings, as the realists maintain? Debate has raged for decades, but researchers have offered little hard evidence in support of either model. Relying on empirical studies of judicial reasoning and decision making, we propose an entirely new model of judging that provides a more accurate explanation of judicial behavior. Our model accounts for the tendency of the human brain to make automatic, snap judgments, which are surprisingly accurate, but which can also lead to erroneous decisions. Equipped with a better understanding of judging, we then propose several reforms that should lead to more just and accurate outcomes.

Keywords: behavioral law and economics, judges, heuristics and biases, dispute resolution, psychology, realism, formalism

Suggested Citation

Guthrie, Chris and Rachlinski , Jeffrey J. and Wistrich, Andrew J., Blinking on the Bench: How Judges Decide Cases. Cornell Law Review, Forthcoming; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 07-25; Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 07-32. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1026414

Chris Guthrie (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-6823 (Phone)
615-322-6631 (Fax)

Jeffrey John Rachlinski

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-5878 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

Andrew J. Wistrich

California Central District Court ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90012
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
2,783
Rank
3,238
Abstract Views
13,942