Against Accuracy (as a Measure of Judicial Performance)

14 Pages Posted: 7 May 2014

Date Written: May 6, 2014


This Essay - a contribution to a symposium reacting to Judge William Young and Professor Jordan Singer's article "Bench Presence: Toward a More Complete Model of Federal District Court Productivity," 118 PENN. ST. L. REV. 55 (2013) - advances the following thesis: Attempting to assess the accuracy of judicial decisions in any scalable way is either impossible or imprudent. Accuracy, in cases where it counts, depends on too many assessments that are too contestable or indeterminable in too many respects. Indeed, our system recognizes this. The familiar concerns of judicial ethics belie any systemic belief in the determinacy of outcomes in close cases. Put simply, if we believed that it is easy to determine whether (some significant subset of) judicial decisions is right or wrong we would not care about such things as whether judges own trivial amounts of stock in corporate parties that appear before them. Because of this, the most we are able to say in many cases is that an accurate judicial decision is one rendered in accordance with applicable procedural safeguards. As a result, the assessment of judicial performance, much like the regulation of judicial ethics, may best entail a focus solely on process.

Keywords: judicial performance evaluation, judicial productivity

JEL Classification: K4, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Oldfather, Chad M., Against Accuracy (as a Measure of Judicial Performance) (May 6, 2014). New England Law Review, Forthcoming; Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 14-15. Available at SSRN:

Chad M. Oldfather (Contact Author)

Marquette University - Law School ( email )

Eckstein Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States
414.288.8031 (Phone)

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