The Captured Situation of Justice
Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 26, 2010
Michael S. Kang and Joanna Shepherd recently posted the important paper “The Partisan Price of Justice: An Empirical Analysis of Campaign Contributions and Judicial Decisions” on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.
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Do campaign contributions affect judicial decisions by elected judges in favor of their contributors’ interests? Although the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. relies on this intuition for its logic, it has been until now largely a proposition that has gone empirically untested. No longer. Using a dataset of every state supreme court case in all fifty states over a four-year period, we find that elected judges are more likely to decide in favor of business interests as the amount of campaign contributions that they have received from those interests increases. In other words, every dollar of direct contributions from business groups is associated with an increase in the probability that the judges will vote for business litigants. However, we find surprisingly a statistically significant relationship between campaign contributions and judicial decisions in favor of contributors’ interests only for judges elected in partisan elections, not nonpartisan ones. Our findings suggest an important role of political parties in connecting campaign contributions to judicial decisions under partisan elections. In the flurry of reform activity responding to Caperton, our findings support judicial reforms that propose the replacement of partisan elections with nonpartisan methods of judicial selection and retention.
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You can download the paper for free here. For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Situationist Corruption,” “The Situation of Judges,” “The Situation of Earmarks,” “The Situation of Judging – Part I,” and “The Situation of Judging – Part II.”