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From local trial courts to the United States Supreme Court, judges' decisions affect the fates of individual litigants and the fate of the nation as a whole. Scholars have long discussed and debated explanations of judicial behavior. This book examines the major issues in the debates over how best to understand judicial behavior and assesses what we actually know about how judges decide cases. It concludes that we are far from understanding why judges choose the positions they take in court.
Lawrence Baum considers three issues in examining judicial behavior. First, the author considers the balance between the judges' interest in the outcome of particular cases and their interest in other goals such as personal popularity and lighter workloads. Second, Baum considers the relative importance of good law and good policy as bases for judges' choices. Finally Baum looks at the extent to which judges act strategically, choosing their own positions after taking into account the positions that their fellow judges and other policy makers might adopt. Baum argues that the evidence on each of these issues is inconclusive and that there remains considerable room for debate about the sources of judges' decisions. Baum concludes that this lack of resolution is not the result of weaknesses in the scholarship but from the difficulty in explaining human behavior. He makes a plea for diversity in research.
This book will be of interest to political scientists and scholars in law and courts as well as attorneys who are interested in understanding judges as decision makers and who want to understand what we can learn from scholarly research about judicial behavior.
Review Law and Politics Book Review | 2/1/1998