Judicial Elections: Directions in the Study of Institutional Legitimacy

By Benesh, Sara C. | Judicature, March/April 2013 | Go to article overview

Judicial Elections: Directions in the Study of Institutional Legitimacy


Benesh, Sara C., Judicature


Research concerning judicial legitimacy remains imperfect In this essay, I explore the proper measurement of the concept of legitimacy the specification of the genesis of legitimacy and the consideration of legitimacy of other institutions.

James Gibson, in his book Electing Judges, has once again set the standard for inquiry into the legitimacy of courts and the forces that coalesce to influence that legitimacy. Legitimacy is the source of the courts' substantial influence within our system of government and, as such, there is no question that the study of legitimacy is as important now as ever. But, in many ways, especially for state courts, we know barely anything about this all-important source of judicial power. Systematic, careful, and creative analyses of the questions raised when we consider legitimacy, then, are sorely needed and Gibson's work contributes significantly to what we know by urging us to do three things: [1] consider citizen expectations when attempting to ascertain the impact of various behaviors on the legitimacy of courts, (2) compare citizen reactions to campaigns for judicial positions with campaigns for state legislatures to determine the extent to which judicial elections are unique, and (3) consider the possibility that elections themselves confer legitimacy on state courts, even when campaigns serve, in some ways, to detract from it.

But the research concerning judicial legitimacy (at any level) remains imperfect. There are three major areas that deserve increased attention, more research, and better understanding: (1) the proper measurement of the concept of legitimacy, (2) the specification of the genesis of institutional legitimacy, and (3) the consideration of the legitimacy of institutions other than courts. In this essay, I consider what we know and what we don't know about institutional legitimacy, and highlight questions for future research.

First, how does one validly and reliably measure the concept we have come to know as "legitimacy?" Legitimacy, or diffuse support, is often conceptualized as an enduring indicator of institutional loyalty.1 "Diffuse support refers to a 'reservoir of favorable attitudes or good will that helps members to accept or tolerate outputs to which they are opposed or the effects of which they see as damaging to their wants.'"2 Gibson, Caldeira, and Spence argue that diffuse support is "institutional loyalty; it is support that is not contingent upon satisfaction with the immediate outputs of the institution."3 Furthermore, they argue that this institutional loyalty obtains even if the institution fails to make agreeable decisions in the short-term. Specific support, on the other hand, is "satisfaction with the immediate outputs of the institution."4 Because these conceptualizations have characterized measurement of institutional legitimacy for decades in scholarly research, we should expect that the indicators used to measure diffuse support capture long-term sentiment as opposed to short-term satisfaction with decisions or with policy outputs. Most of the research in this area, especially on the Supreme Court, has used a number of survey question responses combined into an index that aims to measure respondents' disposition towards the Court, and, in part of his book, Gibson adopts a similar scale. The trouble is, no uniform number or set of questions comprises the diffuse support, or legitimacy, index and it appears that some components (trust, for example) tap short-term rather than long-term institutional support. Although the questions on limiting the Court's power, generally, doing away with the court altogether, or limiting the Court's jurisdiction over certain specific areas of policy likely tap that persistent diffuse support discussed by Easton, other questions focus on how much an individual perceives the courts to be involved in politics, favor certain groups or people over others, or can be trusted to do the right thing or consider the best interests of the public in making decisions - all of those questions likely tap policy outputs in the shortterm. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Judicial Elections: Directions in the Study of Institutional Legitimacy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.