Situated Decisionmaking

21 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2005


The purpose of this Article is to examine the concerns that surround situated judging and the central questions to which they give rise: How can a situated judge render a just decision? On its face, the question appears to be both decisive and unanswerable. Upon deeper examination, however, we can see that the question relies upon a doubtful set of presuppositions about situated decision-making.

In the course of this Article, the author seeks to defend the pragmatic analysis of legal decision-making by casting doubt upon these assumptions. Part II develops two contrasting models of normative decision-making that represent the purported distinction between situated and nonsituated decision-making. In Part III, the author argues that these two models do not represent two alternative decision-making procedures, but instead describe two interdependent and indispensable parts of any decision-making process. Finally, the author concludes that the pragmatic espousal of situated decision-making can be understood, not as a rejection of rationally structured decision-making procedures, but rather as an elucidation and appreciation of the contextual elements of all forms of deliberation.

Keywords: judicial detachment, pragmatism, pragmatic legal theory, judicial engagement, spectator judging, situated judging, situated and nonsituated decision-making, legal rationality, legal deliberation

Suggested Citation

Wells, Catharine P., Situated Decisionmaking. Southern California Law Review, Vol. 63, pp. 1727-1746, 1990; Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 1990-03. Available at SSRN:

Catharine P. Wells (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics