Nav: Home

Politicization and prioritization in the judiciary

August 01, 2018

In "The Politics of Selecting the Bench from the Bar: The Legal Profession and Partisan Incentives to Introduce Ideology into Judicial Selection," published in the Journal of Law and Economics, Adam Bonica and Maya Sen analyze how and why American courts become politicized. The authors present a theory of strategic selection in which politicians appoint judges with specific ideological backgrounds in order to advance political agendas.

Instead of simply determining whether partisanship influences the composition of the courts, the authors aim to understand the ideological demographics of the legal profession--the population from which judges are chosen--and the judiciary. "This is the first study to provide a direct ideological comparison across tiers of the judiciary and between judges and lawyers," say Bonica and Sen, "and also the first to document how--and why--American courts become politicized."

Using a newly collected data set from the Martindale-Hubbell legal directory and the Database on Ideology, Money in Politics, and Elections (DIME) that captures the ideological positioning of nearly half a million judges and lawyers who have made campaign contributions, the authors show that the higher the court, the more conservative and more polarized it becomes, in contrast with the broader population of attorneys, who tend to be liberal. Because higher level courts are more likely to shape national and state policy, politicians who prioritize certain selection methods over others can aim to restructure the judiciary toward their own ideologies.

Bonica and Sen argue that this political motivation leads political actors to favor judicial selection systems relying on gubernatorial or legislative appointments rather than nominations based on merit or nonpartisan elections. Their analysis demonstrates that partisan elections and appointments allow politicians to choose individuals with preferred ideological backgrounds in order to facilitate desired policy shifts. Their findings suggest that political actors take opportunities to use ideology in the selection of judges but that they strategically prioritize higher courts.

"Left to a judicial selection process devoid of ideological considerations," say Bonica and Sen, "America's courts should, after controlling for relevant demographic characteristics, closely resemble the population of attorneys in the jurisdiction from which they are drawn. However, as ideology becomes an increasingly important consideration in judicial selection, the ideological profile of the courts will deviate from that of attorneys and start to look more like that of the relevant political actors."
-end-
This study was made available online and in print in May 2018.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Politics Articles:

Citizens can productively change politics by taking the law to court
When public goods like clean water, air, and health care compete with funding for particular districts, citizen lawsuits can tilt the legislative process toward a middle ground.
German Arctic Office to act as consultant to politics and industry
The rapid climate changes in the Arctic are no longer just the domain of scientists.
Images of suffering in international politics
Images of the suffering of others have been important in the evolution of humanitarianism and protection of humanity, and in the development of human rights.
Politics affect views on healthcare quality -- but not on personal experience with care
What do you think about the quality of healthcare in the United States?
Survey finds vast majority of Americans think US is divided over values and politics
Americans see their country as deeply divided over values and politics -- a gap they do not expect to diminish any time soon, according to a new survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Governors' lobbyists in American politics
Jennifer M. Jensen, associate professor of political science at Lehigh University, explores the role of governors' lobbyists in a new book out later this month.
'Politics in a World of Inequality'
The 24th World Congress of Political Science, organized by the International Political Science Association (IPSA) will take place in Pozna?
Politics, not ignorance, may pollute support for pro-science solutions
Mentioning politics in a message about an environmental issue may turn people -- even people informed about the issue -- away from supporting a pro-science solution, according to a team of researchers.
National politics shape the impacts of park law enforcement
Evidence from West African countries Benin and Niger suggests that more responsive governance can blunt the negative effects of law enforcement in national parks.
The importance of public service broadcasting in politics and society
A new article finds that people living in countries with public service broadcasting are better informed about government and politics, are more trusting of other people, and have more positive civic attitudes.

Related Politics Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...