The Legal Process from a Behavioral Perspective

By Stuart S. Nagel | Go to book overview
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Research Methods

Testing Relations between Characteristics and Decision Making


One useful contribution that a behavioral approach can possibly make to the public law field of political science is in the testing of relations that may exist between judicial characteristics on the one hand and judicial decision-making propensities on the other.

An analysis of these relations is useful for at least four purposes. It is useful primarily to provide a better theoretical understanding of the nature of the judicial process.1 Furthermore, if one finds that some judges have a higher correlation between their background characteristics and their decisional propensities than do other judges, then one can make statements about methods of decreasing these correlations by analyzing how the low-correlation judges or their courts differ from the high- correlation judges. In addition, if one finds that certain background characteristics, like party affiliation, religion, and regionalism, have a significant relation to certain judicial propensities, then one can better demonstrate the need for making judges more representative of the people over whom they judge with regard to these characteristics. Finally, an analysis of these relations can provide some data that can be helpful to voters in the selection of judges and to lawyers in the selection of jurors.2

The importance of the judiciary in government policy formation is shown in V. ROSENBLUM, LAW AS A POLITICAL INSTRUMENT ( 1955); J. PELTASON, FEDERAL COURTS IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS ( 1955); and Dahl, "Decision-Making in a Democracy: The Role of the Supreme Court as a National Policy Maker", 6 J. PUB. L.286-94 ( 1957).
When a governor appoints a judge or when a lawyer tries to get a case heard before a particular judge, he generally has knowledge of the prior judicial or nonjudicial records of the judges involved and need not resort to prediction from background characteristics. Such decisional data, however, is generally not possessed by voters when they elect judges or by lawyers when they empanel a jury.


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The Legal Process from a Behavioral Perspective
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