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

56 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2022 Last revised: 20 Jun 2022

See all articles by Adam Chilton

Adam Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School

Christopher Anthony Cotropia

University of Richmond - School of Law

Kyle Rozema

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

David L. Schwartz

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law

Date Written: May 11, 2022

Abstract

We investigate whether political ideology affects the administration of the judiciary in an area with strong political valiance: setting courthouse policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. We do so using novel data on judicial orders and a new identification strategy that leverages three features of the federal judiciary: many states have multiple judicial districts, many districts have courthouses in multiple cities, and randomness in the partisan affiliation of the chief judges from the rules governing the appointment of a chief in a district. Our research design isolates the effect of chief ideology using placebo tests that difference out unobserved district-level effects from the effects of the ideology of the actual chief judge. We find strong evidence that political ideology influenced management of the judiciary during the pandemic: Republican-appointed chief judges were less likely to require masks to be worn but 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

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

David L. Schwartz

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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