Preferences for Juries Over Judges Across Racial and Ethnic Groups

36 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2007

Date Written: July 2, 2007


Prior studies have shown a general preference among citizens for juries over judges. Researchers, however, have not considered whether race and ethnicity modify this preference. We hypothesized that minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics), who generally express less trust in the legal system, may also express less trust in juries than non-Hispanic whites. We asked a representative sample of 1,465 residents of Texas to state whether they would prefer a jury or a judge to be the decision maker in four hypothetical circumstances. Consistent with expectations, non-Hispanic whites favored juries over judges, particularly if they imagined themselves as a defendant in a criminal trial. By comparison, although African-Americans and some Hispanics generally favored juries, they showed a much weaker set of jury preferences. African Americans had markedly lower support for the civil jury, but support was higher among minorities with prior jury service. Among Hispanics, respondents who took the survey in Spanish typically preferred a judge to make legal decisions. We consider the implications of our findings for trust in the jury system and trust in community members as decision makers.

Keywords: Juries, Judges, Attitudes, Race/Ethnicity

JEL Classification: K41, K13, K14

Suggested Citation

Rose, Mary R. and Ellison, Christopher G. and Seidman Diamond, Shari, Preferences for Juries Over Judges Across Racial and Ethnic Groups (July 2, 2007). 2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Mary R. Rose (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Sociology ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX 78712
United States
512-232-6336 (Phone)

Christopher G. Ellison

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Shari Seidman Diamond

Northwestern University, School of Law & American Bar Foundation ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-2040 (Phone)

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