Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Court Divided

Judges take their values to work.

In A House Divided, I review research on Judges' opinions. It is no secret that a nation's political leaders pack, or attempt to pack, courts with judges who favor their ideological perspectives.

Judges are of course, human beings with feelings and biases. We expect them to understand the law and apply the law without prejudice. But as we have seen in many news stories, judges can interpret the law differently.

The current case of a 5-4 split is a decision supporting the U.S. president's travel ban. Regardless of your opinion of the ban, the point I am making is that values of the people who serve on the highest court of the United States can influence their behavior, which in turn influences the behavior of millions of people.

We can follow the chain of causation back to the voters who select presidents who put candiates to the congress who in turn are elected by voters. In a sense, the values of the judges reflect the values of the voters at some point in time. Of course, they can be "out of synch" at times because justices serve for life. Thus, at any given point in time, judges may be more liberal or more conservative than most voters on particular issues.

Although I am arguing on the basis of research (See Chapter 2, A House Divided) for the influence of moral values on the behavior of judges, there are limits. Judges are still going to operate within the boundaries of the Constitution.


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 Geoff W. Sutton

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