Legal Techniques for Rationalizing Biased Judicial Decisions: Evidence from Experiments with Real Judges

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming

44 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2019

See all articles by Zhuang Liu

Zhuang Liu

The University of Hong Kong - University of Hong Kong

Xueyao Li

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)

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Date Written: July 23, 2019

Abstract

Judges rarely reveal their real reasoning in their opinions when they are influenced by factors that they know they should not consider. The natural next question is how, when a judge is improperly influenced, he or she reasons to justify a biased decision. In a set of experiments on incumbent Chinese judges, we first replicated the findings of previous studies that showed judges can be influenced by extra-legal factors. More importantly, we showed that judges may employ a range of legal techniques to rationalize decision biases: they interpret legal standards and legal concepts strategically, finesse the applicability of law, infer or deny causation and foreseeability, and draw different conclusions from facts. Our findings provide a more realistic understanding of how judges behave, and cast doubt on reasoned elaboration as a guarantee of judicial transparency and trustworthiness.

Suggested Citation

Liu, Zhuang and Li, Xueyao, Legal Techniques for Rationalizing Biased Judicial Decisions: Evidence from Experiments with Real Judges (July 23, 2019). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3424633

Zhuang Liu (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

Xueyao Li

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) ( email )

China

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