Judge Shopping: Testing Whether Judges' Political Orientations Affect Case Filings
35 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2007 Last revised: 30 Jun 2010
Date Written: August 13, 2009
This Article empirically examines whether the political orientations of U.S. district court judges affect the types of cases filed in their courts. For example, it tests whether an increase in the percentage of Republican judges on a court causes a decline in the number of product liability and employment discrimination cases filed. It finds that judges’ political orientations have major effects on the number of filings of some types of cases. Thus, the political orientations of federal district judges have important effects on the outcomes of the federal justice system: fewer plaintiffs seek relief in a court if they believe that the judge is less likely to be sympathetic to their case. This result also helps explain an important study by other researchers that found that a federal district judge’s political orientation generally does not affect the probability that a case ends in a judgment for the plaintiff or in a settlement. This Article’s findings suggest that those results were caused by a selection bias. Because parties believe that judges’ political orientations matter, they are likely settling cases on more favorable terms for the plaintiffs if the cases are assigned to Democratic judges rather than to Republican judges. As a result, although judges’ political orientations may not affect the percentage of cases that end in a judgment for the plaintiff or a settlement, the orientations likely are affecting which cases settle and the terms of these settlements.
Keywords: Judges, Litigation, Settlement, Selection Bias
JEL Classification: K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation