Political Ideology and Judicial Administration: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic

69 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2022 Last revised: 28 Feb 2023

Date Written: May 11, 2022

Abstract

We study the effect of political ideology on the administration of the judiciary by investigating how the chief judges of federal district courts set courthouse policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, we use novel data on the geographic boundaries of federal courts and on the contents of pandemic orders. We account for state and local conditions and policies by leveraging district courts in states that have multiple judicial districts and that have courthouses in multiple counties, and we isolate the effect of chief ideology by using simulations that difference out unobserved district-level effects. We find no consistent evidence that the ideology of chief judges influenced courthouse closures and the authorization of a law allowing for remote proceedings, but we find strong evidence that Republican-appointed chief judges were less likely to require masks and more likely to suspend in-person trials.

Keywords: Judicial Politics, Judicial Behavior, Federal Courts, Political Ideology, COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Chilton, Adam and Cotropia, Christopher Anthony and Rozema, Kyle and Schwartz, David L., Political Ideology and Judicial Administration: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic (May 11, 2022). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 22-20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4124690 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4124690

Adam Chilton (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.adamchilton.org

Christopher Anthony Cotropia

University of Richmond - School of Law ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

Kyle Rozema

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.kylerozema.com

David L. Schwartz

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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