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Stats Confirm Conventional Wisdom on Link Between Judges’ Rulings and Party Affiliation

Posted Nov 29, 2012 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An upcoming book co-authored by Judge Richard Posner analyzes judges’ court decisions and party affiliation to develop its unsurprising conclusion: Appeals judges appointed by Republican presidents are more likely to vote for conservative than liberal outcomes.

The book, scheduled for publication in January, is The Behavior of Federal Judges, the New York Times reports. The book "provides the most comprehensive and detailed empirical analysis yet of the role played by ideology and political affiliation in judicial decision making," the newspaper says.

Many judges scorn news reports that note the political affiliation of judges, the Times says, on the ground they undermine public trust in the courts. But the book and other studies have found the appointing president is a significant predictor of how judges will vote, particularly on politically charged issues such as affirmative action.

“Federal judges are not just politicians in robes, though that is part of what they are,” the book says. The Times notes the division in a recent en banc decision by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned a voter-approved ban on affirmative action in Michigan. The eight judges in the majority were originally nominated by Democratic presidents, while seven judges in the minority were appointed by Republicans.

The other book authors are University of Southern California law and political science professor Lee Epstein and University of Chicago law and economics professor William Landes.

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