Attitude Issues: The Difficulty of Using Personal and Ideological Characteristics to Predict Justice Martha B. Sosman’s Decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health
46 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2011
Date Written: May 9, 2008
Some predicted that Justice Sosman would side with the appellants in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health and hold that the then-existing civil law limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman violated the Massachusetts Constitution. These prognosticators believed that, among other things, Justice Sosman’s service as a board member of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts and as a founding partner of an all-woman law firm were reliable indicators of her political ideology and, ultimately, of her eventual decision in the case. Naturally, they were surprised when Justice Sosman sided with the appellees in dissent. In this article, I analyze, with the help of empirical literature, the evidence available to the public on the eve of the Supreme Judicial Court’s landmark decision in an effort to determine whether their surprise was warranted. I conclude that it was not: a more reliable predictor than the character of her personal and professional life was her own judicial record with respect to the issues raised in Goodridge.
Keywords: Goodridge, Sosman, dissent, attitudinalism, legal model, new legal realism, same-sex marriage, institutionalism, judges
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