Judges and Their Audiences: A Perspective on Judicial Behavior

By Lawrence Baum | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
COURT COLLEAGUES, THE PUBLIC,
AND THE OTHER BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT

WHEN JUDGES ENGAGE in self-presentation, they have a wide array of potential audiences. Students of judicial behavior concentrate their attention on three of those audiences. Two are elements of a court's environment, the mass public and the other branches of government.1 Interest in those two audiences, already substantial, has grown with the popularity of strategic models. The third, judges' colleagues on their own court, is not conceptualized as an audience. But most scholars think of court colleagues as a powerful influence on judges' choices.

Different as these three audiences are, their influence over judges' choices is usually seen as resting on similar bases. Scholars interpret their influence as a product of judges' instrumental motives, primarily their interest in achieving good legal policy. As suggested in chapter 1, there are reasons to be skeptical about the strength of that interest as a motive. Because judges gain nothing for themselves by advancing good policy as they perceive it, their incentives to pursue this goal are not overwhelming.

This does not mean that these audiences do not influence judicial behavior. They do derive some influence from judges' interest in legal policy, and some audiences can be important to judges' achievement of their career goals. Judges' personal motives provide another source of influence that has not been fully recognized, though one whose relevance varies among these audiences. In this chapter, I examine each audience in turn, gauging and interpreting its influence on judges in relation to the full range of judicial motives.


COURT COLLEAGUES

Some trial judges sit alone on a court, but most trial judges and all appellate judges work alongside other judges. Colleagues2 can influence both

1 Scholars also give considerable attention to a third element of the courts' environments,
interest groups. The impact of interest groups is thought to derive chiefly from their part in
setting judicial agendas and their provision of information about cases rather than from
their serving as audiences for judges (Caldeira and Wright 1988; Spriggs and Wahlbeck
1997; Epstein and Knight 1999). For that reason I do not consider interest groups as a
general category, though the section on political groups in chapter 5 discusses interest
groups that can serve as judicial audiences.

2 When I use the term colleagues in this section, it refers solely to judges on the same court.

-50-

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