Making Law in the United States Courts of Appeals

Making Law in the United States Courts of Appeals

Making Law in the United States Courts of Appeals

Making Law in the United States Courts of Appeals

Synopsis

This book asks how federal court judges decide cases when faced with unsettled issues of law. Specifically, how much and why are their decisions influenced by higher court judges or other judges at the same level as themselves? To answer these questions, the author relies on statistical analyses of decisions and interviews with court of appeals judges. The key findings are that judges give serious attention to the work of colleagues of equal authority, but demonstrate substantial independence from the Supreme Court.

Excerpt

I follow Baum (1997) by focusing on what this literature teaches us about judges' motivations, or goals. Other approaches are possible and might be preferred by some scholars. Gibson (1983) is not alone in believing that “[j]udges' decisions are a function of what they prefer to do, tempered by what they think they ought to do, but constrained by what they perceive is feasible to do” (32). Nevertheless, there is good reason to begin with an emphasis on goals. Judgeships – particularly on appellate courts – are highly prestigious, desirable, and competitive positions. Undoubtedly, most people who become judges work hard to gain the office, devoting substantial portions of their professional lives to the quest. It would be strange if the motives that brought them there were . . .

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