Impact of Judicial Elections on Judicial Decisions

Posted: 18 Nov 2016

Date Written: October 2016


Does the process of judicial selection and retention affect the decisions made by judges? Focusing on retention rather than initial selection, this article examines whether the method of retention directly or indirectly affects decisions. Extant literature shows clear effects related to criminal cases, particularly cases involving the death penalty, but also in criminal sentencing in trial courts. At the trial court level, there are also indications of election cycle effects. At the Supreme Court level, there is also some indication of effects in abortion-related cases and in cases involving government parties. This article also looks at the impact of two process-related features of judicial elections: advertising and campaign contributions. There is little research on the advertising question but substantial research on campaign contributions. That latter literature has struggled to overcome the problem of distinguishing friendly giving from actual effects on decisions; although there are growing indications that there may be some contribution effects in some situations, the research is far from definitive.

Suggested Citation

Kritzer, Herbert M., Impact of Judicial Elections on Judicial Decisions (October 2016). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 12, pp. 353-371, 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Herbert M. Kritzer (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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