Judging the Judiciary by the Numbers: Empirical Research on Judges
Posted: 26 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 2017
Do judges make decisions that are truly impartial? A wide range of experimental and field studies reveal that several extralegal 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 toward 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.
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