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
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
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