Judging the Judiciary by the Numbers: Empirical Research on Judges

Posted: 26 Oct 2017

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

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.

Suggested Citation

Rachlinski, Jeffrey John and Wistrich, Andrew J., Judging the Judiciary by the Numbers: Empirical Research on Judges (October 2017). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 13, pp. 203-229, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3059718 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110615-085032

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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