Judging the Judiciary by the Numbers: Empirical Research on Judges

Annu. Rev. Law Soc. Sci. 2017. 13:X--X, doi: 10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110615-085032

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-32

45 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2017 Last revised: 6 Jul 2017

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski

Cornell Law School

Andrew J. Wistrich

California Central District Court

Date Written: June 2, 2017

Abstract

Do judges make decisions that are truly impartial? A wide range of experimental and field studies reveal that several extra-legal factors influence judicial decision making. Demographic characteristics of judges and litigants affect judges’ decisions. Judges also rely heavily on intuitive reasoning in deciding cases, making them vulnerable to the use of mental shortcuts that can lead to mistakes. Furthermore, judges sometimes rely on facts outside the record and rule more favorably towards litigants who are more sympathetic or with whom they share demographic characteristics. On the whole, judges are excellent decision makers, and sometimes resist common errors of judgment that influence ordinary adults. The weight of the evidence, however, suggests that judges are vulnerable to systematic deviations from the ideal of judicial impartiality.

Keywords: Judges, Courts, Judicial Decision Making

Suggested Citation

Rachlinski , Jeffrey J. and Wistrich, Andrew J., Judging the Judiciary by the Numbers: Empirical Research on Judges (June 2, 2017). Annu. Rev. Law Soc. Sci. 2017. 13:X--X, doi: 10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110615-085032 ; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-32. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2979342

Jeffrey John Rachlinski (Contact Author)

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

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