Lay Judgments of Judicial Decision Making

19 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2011

See all articles by Dan Simon

Dan Simon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Nicholas Scurich

University of California, Irvine

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2011

Abstract

This study examined laypeople's evaluations of judicial decision making, specifically of the judicial decision‐making process and the judiciary's legitimacy. Seven‐hundred participants were presented with three judicial decisions, which were portrayed as following on the heels of solid and appropriate legal procedure. Each decision was accompanied by one of four types of reasoning. Participants were asked to evaluate the acceptability of the decisions, focusing on the manner in which they were made and to evaluate the legitimacy of the decisionmaker, all regardless of their outcomes. The study yielded four findings. First, laypeople's judgments were highly contingent on the outcome of the judges' decisions. Consistent with the theory of motivated reasoning, participants found the decisions highly acceptable when they agreed with the judges' decision, but deemed them relatively unacceptable when they disagreed with them. Second, participants were indifferent to the modes of reasoning offered by the judges when they agreed with the outcomes of the decisions, but were differentially sensitive to the modes of reasoning when the judges' decisions frustrated their preferred outcomes. Third, when participants were sensitive to the modes of reasoning, they gave higher ratings of acceptability to decisions that openly admitted to good reasons on both sides of the case as compared with decisions accompanied by reasons that supported one side of the case exclusively. Giving no reasons at all was found to be more acceptable than giving a single, curt reason. Fourth, the findings replicated the coherence effect. Implications for the legitimacy of the judiciary are discussed.

Suggested Citation

Simon, Dan and Scurich, Nicholas, Lay Judgments of Judicial Decision Making (December 2011). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 8, Issue 4, pp. 709-727, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1950946 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-1461.2011.01238.x

Dan Simon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0168 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://weblaw.usc.edu/faculty/contactInfo.cfm?detailID=307

Nicholas Scurich

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

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