Judges and Their Audiences: A Perspective on Judicial Behavior

By Lawrence Baum | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5

OF ALL THE TYPES of personal audiences, social groups and the legal community have the greatest impact on the choices of most judges. But other kinds of groups may be highly salient to certain judges. This chapter considers two quite different kinds of groups, policy groups and the news media. It concludes by probing the hypothesis that a “Greenhouse effect” has moved some Supreme Court justices in a liberal direction, a hypothesis based on the perceived impact of several personal audiences.


Policy groups can be defined as sets of people who share particular policy positions or ideological orientations. Some policy groups are embodied in concrete organizations such as interest groups, but many are informal and less clearly defined.

This section begins by considering policy groups in general and then turns to several specific topics. The Federalist Society exemplifies organized policy groups, and it illuminates how policy groups can function as reference groups for judges. The two subsections that follow consider judicial partisanship and polarization as they relate to policy groups. Finally, I discuss Justice Clarence Thomas as a judge for whom policy groups appear to be highly salient.

The Roles of Policy Groups

Policy groups can be important to judges for instrumental reasons, chiefly when they affect the achievement of career goals. Judges who face elections, for instance, benefit from the campaign spending of interest groups. As campaign costs rise and elections become more competitive in some states (Glaberson 2000; D. Goldberg, Holman, and Sanchez 2002), the value of contributions to judicial candidates and independent spending on their behalf has grown. Support from groups can also assist judges in winning appointments to higher courts. Thus career-minded judges may


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