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NCJ Number: 65172 Find in a Library
Title: JUDICIAL DISCRETION
Journal: JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES  Volume:9  Issue:1  Dated:(JANUARY 1980)  Pages:129-138
Author(s): R S HIGGINS; P H RUBIN
Corporate Author: University of Chicago
Law School
Managing Editor
United States of America
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: University of Chicago
Chicago, IL 60637
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A STUDY WAS CONDUCTED AMONG U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGES TO DETERMINE TO WHAT EXTENT JUDICIAL DISCRETION IS A FUNCTION OF DESIRE FOR PROMOTION, FEAR OF REVERSAL BY A HIGHER COURT, AND AGE.
Abstract: IN 1974, A SAMPLE OF JUDGES WAS CHOSEN FROM AMONG ALL THE ACTIVE U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGES OF THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT. A VECTOR COMPOSED OF A MEASURE OF THE QUALITY OF THE JUDGE'S DECISIONS (THE PROPORTION OF CASES REVERSED, REVERSED IN PART AND AFFIRMED IN PART, OR APPEALED) AND HIS AGE AND SENIORITY WAS ASSOCIATED WITH EACH JUDGE. TWO ALTERNATIVE MEASURES OF CASELOADS WERE USED TO DETERMINE THE APPEALS RATE AND THE REVERSAL RATE: (1) A TALLY OF THE NUMBER OF CASES WHICH EACH DISTRICT JUDGE REPORTED TO THE FEDERAL SUPPLEMENT IN 1973 AND 1974, AND (2) THE TOTAL NUMBER OF CIVIL AND CRIMINAL CASES TERMINATED AFTER SOME COURT ACTION FOR EACH JUDGE IN 1973 AND 1974. RESULTS INDICATED THAT AGE AND SENIORITY DO NOT AFFECT THE QUALITY OF A JUDGE'S DECISIONS BECAUSE THE ROLE OF PRECEDENT IS NIL, DISCRETIONARY BEHAVIOR BY JUDGES IS NOT POLICED BY APPELLATE REVIEW, AND A REPUTATION FOR HANDLING DOWN HIGH QUALITY DECISIONS AS MEASURED BY REVERSAL OR APPEAL RATES HAS LITTLE BEARING ON A JUDGE'S SUCCESS. IN ANOTHER INDEPENDENT TEST, THE APPEALS RECORDS FOR 5 YEARS OF ALL THE DISTRICT JUDGES IN THE FIFTH CIRCUIT WHO WERE PRACTICING IN 1966 WERE TRACED TO CONSTRUCT A REVERSAL RATE. IT WAS ALSO NOTED FOR EACH OF THE JUDGES WHETHER A PROMOTION HAD BEEN RECEIVED OVER THE SAME 5-YEAR PERIOD. RESULTS SHOWED ONLY A SLIGHT RESPONSIVENESS OF THE PROBABILITY OF PROMOTION TO CHANGES IN THE REVERSAL RATE. THEREFORE, JUDGES WERE NOT ADVERSELY AFFECTED FOR ACTING CAPRICIOUSLY, REGARDLESS OF THE LENGTH OF TENURE. IF CONSTRAINTS OPERATE ON JUDGES, THESE CONSTRAINTS MUST COME FROM SOURCES OTHER THAN POSSIBILITIES OF REVERSAL OF DECISIONS, FOOTNOTES ARE PROVIDED.
Index Term(s): Decisionmaking; District Courts; Judges; Judicial conduct and ethics; Judicial discretion
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=65172

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