Judges and Their Audiences: A Perspective on Judicial Behavior

By Lawrence Baum | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE STUDY
OF JUDICIAL BEHAVIOR

I HAVE ARGUED that judging can be understood as self-presentation to a set of audiences. Judges seek the approval of other people, and their interest in approval affects their choices on the bench. As a result, what I have called personal audiences—those whose approval is important to judges for its own sake, not as a means to other ends—shape judicial behavior. Judges' efforts to appeal to their audiences exert an impact even when those efforts are not fully conscious, as is often—indeed usually—the case.

This book is intended to show how a perspective based on the relationships between judges and their audiences can enhance our understanding of judicial behavior. The last section of chapter 1 described several functions that this perspective could serve to that end. This chapter returns to those functions, drawing out the implications of the discussions and analyses in the preceding chapters.


MOTIVATIONAL BASES FOR THE DOMINANT MODELS

The models that dominate the study of judicial behavior in political science share certain assumptions, and each of the competing models adds its own. Some of the most fundamental assumptions have not been given convincing rationales in terms of judges' motivations. As discussed in earlier chapters, an audience-based perspective can supply some of the missing motivational bases for these models while helping to adjudicate disagreements among the models.


The Centrality of Legal Policy

The most important assumption shared by the dominant models is that Supreme Court justices act solely on the goal of achieving good legal policy. Scholars who study other federal courts with versions of the dominant models usually adopt the same assumption.

The scholarship on judicial behavior in political science does not show why judges should focus so much on making good legal policy, and there

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