Causal Effects of Judicial Sentiment: Methods and Application to U.S. Circuit Courts

32 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2019 Last revised: 15 Feb 2020

See all articles by Sergio Galletta

Sergio Galletta

University of Bergamo; ETH Zürich

Elliott Ash

ETH Zürich

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France

Date Written: July 5, 2019

Abstract

This paper provides a general method for analyzing the causal effects of sentiments expressed in the language of judicial rulings, with an application to the effect on social attitudes. We apply natural language processing tools to the text of U.S. appellate court opinions to extrapolate judges’ sentiments toward a number of specific target groups. Exogenous variation in those sentiments comes from an instrumental variables approach, which exploits the random assignment of judges to cases (and the fact that judge characteristics provide good cross-validated predictors of expressed sentiments). Our estimates are consistent with a backlash effect from judge sentiments to social attitudes. This effect does not persist over time and is heterogeneous depending on the target group considered.

Suggested Citation

Galletta, Sergio and Ash, Elliott and Chen, Daniel L., Causal Effects of Judicial Sentiment: Methods and Application to U.S. Circuit Courts (July 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3415393 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3415393

Sergio Galletta (Contact Author)

University of Bergamo ( email )

Via Salvecchio, 19
Bergamo, 24129
Italy

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

Elliott Ash

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

Daniel L. Chen

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse School of Economics, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, University of Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France ( email )

Toulouse School of Economics
1, Esplanade de l'Université
Toulouse, 31080
France

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