The Legal Process from a Behavioral Perspective

By Stuart S. Nagel | Go to book overview

SECTION IV Accounting for Decisional Variation

CHAPTER 18
Judicial Backgrounds and Criminal Cases

I. THE RESEARCH FINDINGS

A. POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION

The first row of Table 18-1 tends to indicate that on the bipartisan supreme courts Democratic and Republican judges do differ from one another in deciding criminal cases. In 1955, 15 bipartisan state and federal supreme courts decided at least one nonunanimous criminal case on which all their judges sat. These courts were comprised of 85 judges who gave a party affiliation in the sources consulted. Of the 40 Democrats, 55 percent were above the average of their respective courts on the decision score, whereas only 31 percent of the 45 Republicans were above the average of their respective courts on the decision score.

The California Supreme Court illustrates this statistically significant difference. Two of the California judges, Justices Carter and Traynor, declared themselves as Democrats in the Directory, and two, Justices Shenk and Spence, declared themselves as Re publicans. Justices Edmonds, Gibson, and Schauer did not indicate party affiliation. It is unusual for so many judges on a supreme court not to give party affiliation. The California Supreme Court, however, is not an elected court. Partly to eliminate partisan influence, the judges are appointed initially by the governor with the approval of a Commission on Qualifications, and they appear on the ballot for voter approval every 12 years thereafter. In 1955, only Missouri had a similar system of judicial election. In spite of this attempt to eliminate partisan divisions, Democrats Carter

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