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Advisory Opinions And The Problem Of Legal Authority, Christian R. Burset Apr 2021

Advisory Opinions And The Problem Of Legal Authority, Christian R. Burset

Vanderbilt Law Review

The prohibition against advisory opinions is fundamental to our understanding of federal judicial power, but we have misunderstood its origins. Discussions of the doctrine begin not with a constitutional text or even a court case, but a letter in which the Jay Court rejected President Washington’s request for legal advice. Courts and scholars have offered a variety of explanations for the Jay Court’s behavior. But they all depict the earliest Justices as responding to uniquely American concerns about advisory opinions.

This Article offers a different explanation. Drawing on previously untapped archival sources, it shows that judges throughout the ...


The Future Of Supreme Court Reform, Ganesh Sitaraman, Daniel Epps Jan 2021

The Future Of Supreme Court Reform, Ganesh Sitaraman, Daniel Epps

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

For a brief moment in the fall of 2020, structural reform of the Supreme Court seemed like a tangible possibility. After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, some prominent Democratic politicians and liberal commentators warmed to the idea of expanding the Court to respond to Republicans’ rush to confirm a nominee before the election, despite their refusal four years prior to confirm Judge Merrick Garland on the ground that it was an election year. Though Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the Presidency in November, Democrats lost seats in the House and have a majority in the Senate ...


Many Minds, Many Mdl Judges, Brian T. Fitzpatrick Jan 2021

Many Minds, Many Mdl Judges, Brian T. Fitzpatrick

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

My focus here is on a cost that has been surprisingly neglected by scholars but may be the greatest cost of them all: the accurate adjudication of legal claims and defenses. I suspect it is intuitive to most of us that asking one person to decide something instead of inviting many other people to weigh in probably reduces the quality of the resulting decision. There is a literature that formalizes this intuition called "many-minds" scholarship. It proceeds from a famous mathematics proof known as the Condorcet Jury Theorem. Although some people have questioned the applicability of many-minds theories to legal ...


Judicial Temperament Explained, Terry Maroney Jan 2021

Judicial Temperament Explained, Terry Maroney

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

Why do we care about judicial temperament? The basic logic is that temperament is an underlying factor that produces behaviors, some desired and some not. The behaviors most often cited as evidence of a good temperament — displays of courtesy, patience, level-headedness, and caring — are desirable because they advance procedural justice. They make litigants, attorneys, and the public feel heard and understood, foster respect for the courts, and — when displayed to fellow judges — advance collegiality. In contrast, the behaviors most often cited as evidence of a poor temperament — outsized or misplaced anger displays, discourtesy, impatience, and callousness — foster feelings of alienation ...


Statistical Precedent: Allocating Judicial Attention, Ryan W. Copus Apr 2020

Statistical Precedent: Allocating Judicial Attention, Ryan W. Copus

Vanderbilt Law Review

The U.S. Courts of Appeals were once admired for their wealth of judicial attention and for their generosity in distributing it. At least by legend, almost all cases were afforded what William Richman and William Reynolds have termed the “Learned Hand Treatment.” Guided by Judge Learned Hand’s commandment that “[t]hou shalt not ration justice,” a panel of three judges would read the briefs, hear oral argument, deliberate at length, and prepare multiple drafts of an opinion. Once finished, the judges would publish their opinion, binding themselves and their colleagues in accordance with the common-law tradition. The final ...


(What We Talk About When We Talk About) Judicial Temperament, Terry A. Maroney Jan 2020

(What We Talk About When We Talk About) Judicial Temperament, Terry A. Maroney

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

Judicial temperament is simultaneously the thing we think all judges must have and the thing that no one can quite put a finger on. Extant accounts are scattered and thin, and either present a laundry list of desirable judicial qualities without articulating what (if anything) unifies the list or treat temperament as a fundamentally mysterious quality that a judge either does or does not have. Resting so much—selection, evaluation, discipline, even removal—on such an indeterminate concept is intellectually and practically intolerable. Polarized debates over Justice Kavanaugh’s fitness to sit on the Supreme Court made clear just how ...


Empirically Investigating Judicial Emotion, Terry A. Maroney Jan 2019

Empirically Investigating Judicial Emotion, Terry A. Maroney

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

The empirical study of judicial emotion has enormous but largely untapped potential to illuminate a previously underexplored aspect of judging, its processes, outputs, and impacts. After defining judicial emotion, this article proposes a theoretical taxonomy of approaches to its empirical exploration. It then presents and analyses extant examples of such research, with a focus on how the questions they ask fit within the taxonomy and the methods they use to answer those questions. It concludes by identifying areas for growth in the disciplined, data-based exploration of the many facets of judicial emotion.


Proposed Reforms To Texas Judicial Selection: Panelist Remarks, Brian T. Fitzpatrick Jan 2019

Proposed Reforms To Texas Judicial Selection: Panelist Remarks, Brian T. Fitzpatrick

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

I am going to set the stage by providing a little background about the various methods that States around the country use to select their judges. I am also going to remind us of many of the considerations that we like to think about when we are deciding which of these methods is best. And I am going to push upon you a new consideration that is sometimes not thought about in these discussions as well as share some data regarding this last consideration. But let’s start with some background about the selection methods.

There are basically four different ...


Introduction: The Effects Of Selection Method On Public Officials, Clayton J. Masterman Nov 2017

Introduction: The Effects Of Selection Method On Public Officials, Clayton J. Masterman

Vanderbilt Law Review

State and local governments have long struggled to design optimal mechanisms for selecting public officials. Centuries of experimentation have left us with several techniques: election (partisan or otherwise), political appointment, or selection by some kind of technocratic commission. Despite our extensive experience with these systems, no consensus has emerged as to which system is best under what circumstances. Several questions remain unclear: What effect does selection method have on the quality of services that public officials provide? Does selection method systematically affect the ideological composition of officials? If so, does that effect matter? And what determines whether a jurisdiction adopts ...


The Ideological Consequences Of Selection: A Nationwide Study Of The Methods Of Selecting Judges, Brian T. Fitzpatrick Nov 2017

The Ideological Consequences Of Selection: A Nationwide Study Of The Methods Of Selecting Judges, Brian T. Fitzpatrick

Vanderbilt Law Review

How best to select judges has been the subject of great debate ever since the founding of the United States. Over the course of American history, four basic methods of selection have been tried (with some variations among them): appointment by elected officials, partisan election, nonpartisan election, and selection by a technocratic commission.' The first three methods will be familiar to most readers: gubernatorial or legislative appointment of judges, contested elections with party affiliation on the ballot, and contested elections without party affiliation on the ballot. But readers may be less familiar with the last method: many states today use ...


The Effects Of Trial Judge Gender And Public Opinion On Criminal Sentencing Decisions, Christina L. Boyd, Michael J. Nelson Nov 2017

The Effects Of Trial Judge Gender And Public Opinion On Criminal Sentencing Decisions, Christina L. Boyd, Michael J. Nelson

Vanderbilt Law Review

We explore the effects of a trial judge's gender in criminal sentencing decisions by addressing two unsettled questions. First, do female and male trial judges sentence criminal offenders differently from one another? While numerous qualitative and quantitative scholars have examined this question, the results lack consistency. Second, are female trial judges' sentencing practices differentially affected by public opinion compared to male judges' behavior? Little research exists on this second question, but existing theory on how females and males make decisions and operate as judges is informative. To provide new empirical insight into these questions, we rely on two sources ...


Adjudicating Death: Professionals Or Politicians?, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati Nov 2017

Adjudicating Death: Professionals Or Politicians?, Stephen J. Choi, Mitu Gulati

Vanderbilt Law Review

Given that there is significant variation across the states in terms of whether death examination offices are run by trained professionals or local politicians, we should, in theory, be able to empirically test the question of whether professionals or politicians do a better job of adjudicating death. It turns out that, although there are strong opinions about what the answer surely is, there has been little in the way of serious empirical work addressing this question. Our Article takes a first cut at looking at how one might do that analysis.


Public Perceptions Of Gender Bias In The Decisions Of Female State Court Judges, Michael P. Fix, Gbemende E. Johnson Nov 2017

Public Perceptions Of Gender Bias In The Decisions Of Female State Court Judges, Michael P. Fix, Gbemende E. Johnson

Vanderbilt Law Review

How are women on the bench, and their decisions, perceived by the public? Many scholars find that gender influences the voting behavior of judges and the assessment of judges by state judicial systems and the American Bar Association. However, few scholars have examined how judge gender affects the way in which the public responds to judicial outcomes. Does the public perceive the decisions of female state court judges as being "biased" by their gender identity, particularly in cases involving reproductive rights/family law? Also, does the public view female judges on state courts as more likely to rely on ideology ...


Measuring Justice In State Courts: The Demographics Of The State Judiciary, Tracey E. George, Albert H. Yoon Nov 2017

Measuring Justice In State Courts: The Demographics Of The State Judiciary, Tracey E. George, Albert H. Yoon

Vanderbilt Law Review

For most individuals and organizations, state courts--especially state trial courts-are the "law" for all effective purposes. State courts are America's courts. But, we know surprisingly little about state court judges despite their central and powerful role in lawmaking and dispute resolution. This lack of information is especially significant because judges' backgrounds have important implications for the work of courts. The characteristics of those who sit in judgment affect the internal workings of courts as well as the external perception of those courts and judges. The background of judges will influence how they make decisions and can impact the public ...


Judicial Laterals, Jonathan R. Nash Nov 2017

Judicial Laterals, Jonathan R. Nash

Vanderbilt Law Review

Lawyers already in practice at one law firm often move to another law firm. This type of move is referred to as "lateraling." A lawyer might choose to lateral for many of the reasons we often think people in general take new positions: better job security, better pay, better benefits, greater prestige, more interesting work, better future job prospects, more leisure time, and/or more predictable hours.' In contrast to lawyers in private practice, we do not commonly associate judges with lateraling. But the fact is that, just as some judges are reassigned or promoted within a judicial system (for ...


Introduction: The Power Of New Data And Technology, Laura E. Dolbow Nov 2017

Introduction: The Power Of New Data And Technology, Laura E. Dolbow

Vanderbilt Law Review

Modern technology has revolutionized the law. Computers drastically expanded the scope and speed of access to legal information. Unlike the days when lawyers had to climb ladders in the stacks to find specific statutes or cases in printed reporters, Westlaw brings up thousands of resources at the touch of a fingertip. Beyond transforming legal research, new data and technology have transformed the law in two other powerful ways: they have made the law more accessible to nonlawyers, and they have made it possible for lawyers to gather information about how the law is being executed. The articles in this Section ...


Judicial Politics And Decisionmaking: A New Approach, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, Andrew J. Wistrich, Chris Guthrie Nov 2017

Judicial Politics And Decisionmaking: A New Approach, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, Andrew J. Wistrich, Chris Guthrie

Vanderbilt Law Review

In twenty-five different experiments conducted on over 2,200 judges, we assessed whether judges' political ideology influences their resolution of hypothetical cases. Generally, we found that the political ideology of the judge matters, but only very little. Across a range of bankruptcy, criminal, and civil cases, we found that the aggregate effect of political ideology is either nonexistent or amounts to roughly one quarter of a standard deviation. Overall, the results of our experiments suggest that judges are not "politicians in robes."


I Dissent: The Federal Circuit's "Great Dissenter," Her Influence On The Patent Dialogue, And Why It Matters, Daryl Lim Jan 2017

I Dissent: The Federal Circuit's "Great Dissenter," Her Influence On The Patent Dialogue, And Why It Matters, Daryl Lim

Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

This Article is the first study to comprehensively explore the centrality of the patent dialogue at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the nation's principal patent court from empirical, doctrinal, and policy perspectives. It offers several insights into how the Federal Circuit reaches consensus and when it does not, serving as a window into its inner workings, a reference to academics, judges, and attorneys alike. More broadly, this Article provides a template to study the "legal dialogue" of other judges at the Federal Circuit, those in other Circuits, as well as those in other areas of the ...


The Ideological Consequences Of Selection: A Nationwide Study Of The Methods Of Selecting Judges, Brian T. Fitzpatrick Jan 2017

The Ideological Consequences Of Selection: A Nationwide Study Of The Methods Of Selecting Judges, Brian T. Fitzpatrick

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

One topic that has gone largely unexplored in the long debate over how best to select judges is whether there are any ideological consequences to employing one selection method versus another. The goal of this study is to assess whether certain methods of selection have resulted in judiciaries that skew to the left or right compared with the public at large in those states. In particular, I examine the ideological preferences of state appellate judges in all 50 states over a 20-year period (1990-2010) as measured by their relative affiliation with the Republican or Democratic Party through campaign contributions, voter ...


Justice Scalia And Class Actions, Brian T. Fitzpatrick Jan 2017

Justice Scalia And Class Actions, Brian T. Fitzpatrick

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

I have been asked to write an essay on Justice Scalia's class action jurisprudence and although I suspect many readers will find this surprising because the Justice is so often linked to constitutional law, I actually think that his class action jurisprudence may be where his opinions leave some of the biggest marks. To be as blunt about it as the Justice himself would have been: for better or for worse, I am not sure any other Justice of the Supreme Court in American history has done more to hinder the class action lawsuit than Justice Scalia did.

The ...


Judicial Politics And Decisionmaking: A New Approach, Chris Guthrie, Andrew J. Wistrich, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski Jan 2017

Judicial Politics And Decisionmaking: A New Approach, Chris Guthrie, Andrew J. Wistrich, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

In twenty-five different experiments conducted on over 2,200 judges, we assessed whether judges' political ideology influences their resolution of hypothetical cases. Generally, we found that the political ideology of the judge matters, but only very little. Across a range of bankruptcy, criminal, and civil cases, we found that the aggregate effect of political ideology is either nonexistent or amounts to roughly onequarter of a standard deviation. Overall, the results of our experiments suggest that judges are not "politicians in robes."


The Management Of Staff By Federal Court Of Appeals Judges, Mitu Gulati, Richard A. Posner Mar 2016

The Management Of Staff By Federal Court Of Appeals Judges, Mitu Gulati, Richard A. Posner

Vanderbilt Law Review

Federal court of appeals judges have staffs consisting usually of a secretary and four law clerks; some judges have externs as well (law students working part time without pay). These staffs are essential, given judicial workloads and judges'limitations. Yet not much is known about how the judges manage their staffs. Each judge knows, of course, but judges rarely exchange information about staff management. Nor is there, to our knowledge, a literature that attempts to compare and evaluate the varieties of staff management techniques employed by federal court of appeals judges. This Essay aims to fill that gap. It is ...


Parsing The Behavioral And Brain Mechanisms Of Third-Party Punishment, Owen D. Jones, Matthew Ginther, Richard J. Bonnie, Morris B. Hoffman, Francis X. Shen, Kenneth W. Simons, Rene Marois Jan 2016

Parsing The Behavioral And Brain Mechanisms Of Third-Party Punishment, Owen D. Jones, Matthew Ginther, Richard J. Bonnie, Morris B. Hoffman, Francis X. Shen, Kenneth W. Simons, Rene Marois

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

The evolved capacity for third-party punishment is considered crucial to the emergence and maintenance of elaborate human social organization and is central to the modern provision of fairness and justice within society. Although it is well established that the mental state of the offender and the severity of the harm he caused are the two primary predictors of punishment decisions, the precise cognitive and brain mechanisms by which these distinct components are evaluated and integrated into a punishment decision are poorly understood.

Using a brain-scanning technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we implemented a novel experimental design to ...


Why Choose? A Response To Rachlinski, Wistrich & Guthrie, Terry A. Maroney Jan 2015

Why Choose? A Response To Rachlinski, Wistrich & Guthrie, Terry A. Maroney

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

In "Heart Versus Head," Rachlinski, Guthrie, and Wistrich present experimental findings suggesting that judges sometimes rule on the basis of emotion rather than reason. Though there is much of value in their findings, they have presented a false choice. The experiments do offer strong evidence that judges' decisions can be influenced by the "affect heuristic," insofar as they show that prompting generalized feelings of good/bad and like/dislike can sway legal rulings that ought to be answered entirely on traditionally legalistic grounds. However, the experiments do not speak more broadly to the influence of judicial emotion, which is a ...


The Judges Of The U.S. Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation, Tracey E. George, Margaret S. Williams Jan 2014

The Judges Of The U.S. Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation, Tracey E. George, Margaret S. Williams

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (or "MDL Panel") is one of a small number of special federal courts created pursuant to Article III by Congress and staffed by a Chief-Justice-appointed group of Article III judges for limited terms. The MDL Panel is a powerful judicial institution with substantial discretion over complex litigation in the United States. For all practical purposes, it controls where many of the most far-reaching and significant private civil actions will be resolved which can affect procedural and substantive rights of the parties. An understanding of who has served on the MDL Panel would ...


The Emotionally Intelligent Judge, Terry A. Maroney Jan 2013

The Emotionally Intelligent Judge, Terry A. Maroney

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

Judges, like all of us, have been acculturated to an ideal of dispassion. But judges experience emotion on a regular basis. Judicial emotion must be managed competently. The psychology of emotion regulation can help judges learn to prepare realistically for, and respond thoughtfully to, the emotions they are bound to feel. This short piece, written for a judicial audience, synthesizes research that can help judges accept, analyze, and shape the emotional aspects of their work.


Judges And Their Emotions, Terry A. Maroney Jan 2013

Judges And Their Emotions, Terry A. Maroney

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

In a contribution to this Symposium on Law and Emotion: Re-Envisioning Family Law, Phillip Shaver and his co-authors succinctly encapsulate contemporary psychological theory on interpersonal attachment -- primarily parent-child attachment and its role in creating lifelong attachment patterns -- and seek to outline the relevance of such research for both social policy and law. This Comment demonstrates that many areas of family law already seek to cultivate and reward attachment. But attachment is not and cannot be the sole-or even, perhaps, the most important-factor driving most legal determinations. Recognizing the importance of secure attachment does not answer difficult questions about how best ...


Contrition In The Courtroom: Do Apologies Affect Adjudication?, Chris Guthrie Jan 2013

Contrition In The Courtroom: Do Apologies Affect Adjudication?, Chris Guthrie

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

Apologies usually help to repair social relationships and appease aggrieved parties. Previous research has demonstrated that in legal settings, apologies influence how litigants and juries evaluate both civil and criminal defendants. Judges, however, routinely encounter apologies offered for instrumental reasons, such as to reduce a civil damage award or fine, or to shorten a criminal sentence. Frequent exposure to insincere apologies might make judges suspicious of or impervious to apologies. In a series of experimental studies with judges as research participants, we find that in some criminal settings, apologies can induce judges to be more lenient, but overall, apologizing to ...


Altering Attention In Adjudication, Chris Guthrie, Jeffrey J. Rachinski, Andrew J. Wistrich Jan 2013

Altering Attention In Adjudication, Chris Guthrie, Jeffrey J. Rachinski, Andrew J. Wistrich

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

Judges decide complex cases in rapid succession but are limited by cognitive constraints. Consequently judges cannot allocate equal attention to every aspect of a case. Case outcomes might thus depend on which aspects of a case are particularly salient to the judge. Put simply, a judge focusing on one aspect of a case might reach a different outcome than a judge focusing on another. In this Article, we report the results of a series of studies exploring various ways in which directing judicial attention can shape judicial outcomes. In the first study, we show that judges impose shorter sentences when ...


Angry Judges, Terry A. Maroney Oct 2012

Angry Judges, Terry A. Maroney

Vanderbilt Law Review

Judges get angry. Law, however, is of two minds as to whether they should; more importantly, it is of two minds as to whether judges' anger should influence their behavior and decisionmaking. On the one hand, anger is the quintessentially judicial emotion. It involves appraisal of wrongdoing, attribution of blame, and assignment of punishment-precisely what we ask of judges. On the other, anger is associated with aggression, impulsivity, and irrationality. Aristotle, through his concept of virtue, proposed reconciling this conflict by asking whether a person is angry at the right people, for the right reasons, and in the right way ...