Thursday, February 16, 2012

Empirical Studies of Jury Participation, Supreme Court Ideology

Just published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies: two articles relating to Civil Procedure or Federal Courts:

(1) “Selected to Serve: An Analysis of Lifetime Jury Participation,” by Mary R. Rose, Shari Seidman Diamond, and Marc A. Musick. (available here)


Using a survey of a random sample of 1,380 Texas adults, we consider what factors distinguish those who have ever had an opportunity to serve on a jury from those who have not (“lifetime participation”). Residential stability and willingness to serve distinguished former jurors from those who had never been summoned or had never been questioned for a case. After controlling for age, neither race nor ethnicity accounted for participation, a finding replicated in data from another state. No factors differentiated former jurors from people who have been questioned but never selected. Our results strongly indicate that improvements to participation should focus on attrition that occurs before potential jurors reach the courtroom.

(2) “Consensus, Disorder, and Ideology on the Supreme Court,” by Paul H. Edelman, David E. Klein, and Stefanie A. Lindquist. (available here)


Ideological models are widely accepted as the basis for many academic studies of the Supreme Court because of their power in predicting the justices' decision-making behavior. Not all votes are easily explained or well predicted by attitudes, however. Consensus in Supreme Court voting, particularly the extreme consensus of unanimity, has often puzzled Court observers who adhere to ideological accounts of judicial decision making. Are consensus and (ultimately) unanimity driven by extreme factual scenarios or extreme lower court rulings such that even the most liberal and most conservative justice can agree on the case disposition? Or are they driven by other, nonattitudinal influences on judicial decisions? In this article, we rely on a measure of deviations from expected ideological patterns in the justices' voting to assess whether ideological models provide an adequate explanation of consensus on the Court. We find that case factors that predict voting disorder also predict consensus. Based on that finding, we conclude that consensus on the Court cannot be explained by ideology alone; rather, it often results from ideology being outweighed by other influences on justices' decisions.


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