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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 70232 Find in a Library
Title: Environmental Constraints on the Behavior of Judges - A Representational Model of Judicial Decision Making
Journal: Law and Society Review  Volume:14  Issue:2  Dated:(Winter 1980)  Pages:343-370
Author(s): J L Gibson
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 28
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This research investigates linkages between criminal trial courts in Iowa and the sociopolitical attributes of their environments in an effect to determine whether the judiciary is a representative institution.
Abstract: Most research suggests that judges are often sensitive to public opinion, but confusion exists over the process through which the public affects the courts. Taking advantage of the quasiexperimental research design afforded by the 'circuit' system of court organization used by the Iowa trial courts, this study examined the 'sharing' model of representation. This model requires that governmental decisionmakers hold values which are congruent with the model values of their constituents and that the decisionmakers make decision congruent with these values. To ensure against spurious results, controls were introduced for three types of influences on sentencing decisions: defendant and case attributes, judge attributes and role orientations, and local system practices. Analysis of a path model consisting of measures of sentencing behavior, seriousness of crime in the local jurisdiction, and perceptions of crime seriousness revealed that one-sixth of the variance in sentences can be explained. However, substantial variation across judges in responsiveness to local norms was also discovered. Further investigation to account for variation in the strength of environmental linkages suggested that judges with greater contact with their constituencies, who have experienced electoral defeat, and who assume a 'delegate' role orientation are far more influenced by environmental factors. Some judges see judging as largely a technical activity, requiring legal competence but few political skills, while others recognize judging as inherently and intimately a part of the allocation of values by the political system. Different motivations and different experiences thus shape views of proper judicial behavior, and these conceptions have dramatic consequences for the decisionmaking process. Footnotes, charts, tables, and about 50 references are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Decisionmaking; Dispositions; Iowa; Judicial conduct and ethics; Judicial discretion; Political influences; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Trial courts
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