The Gatekeepers: Federal District Courts in the Political Process

By Kevin L. Lyles | Go to book overview

gants in the justice system, when these same judges were asked to characterize their judicial beliefs, only 20 percent of whites selected conservative and about 71 percent selected liberal and moderate. See Table 8.5, Q26.

Figure 8.9
Liberal, Moderate, or Conservative

CONCLUSIONS

In this chapter, I provided a comparative description and assessment of how African-American, Latino, and white federal district court judges view various aspects of their role and function as policy actors in the American political system generally. Specific attention was also given to how these judges assess the selection and appointment process.

On balance, the NDJS data support and enhance extant studies suggesting that African-American judges might view and assess political and legal issues quite differently from whites. Overall, the NDJS data provide a polarized picture of African-American, and, to some extent, Latino district court judges regarding their expectations and evaluations of their key policymaking role and functions compared to that of their white counterparts.

Overall, however, the potential policymaking and impact of this racial polarization is tempered by the limits and capacity of courts as governing institutions in the political process. Thus, for example, although a majority of African- American judges disagree that "Black litigants are treated fairly in the justice system," the question remains how these judges might be able to work within the limits and capacity of the judicial system to change the overall treatment of African-Americans within the system. Essentially, it must be remembered that the judiciary remains very much a part of the existing political-social order. That is, the policymaking potential of federal courts in large measure rests on whether particular presidents wish to use their judicial appointments to bring

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