Impact of Judicial Elections on Judicial Decisions

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Does the process of judicial selection and retention affect the decisions made by judges? Focusing on retention rather than initial selection, this article examines whether the method of retention directly or indirectly affects decisions. Extant literature shows clear effects related to criminal cases, particularly cases involving the death penalty, but also in criminal sentencing in trial courts. At the trial court level, there are also indications of election cycle effects. At the Supreme Court level, there is also some indication of effects in abortion-related cases and in cases involving government parties. This article also looks at the impact of two process-related features of judicial elections: advertising and campaign contributions. There is little research on the advertising question but substantial research on campaign contributions. That latter literature has struggled to overcome the problem of distinguishing friendly giving from actual effects on decisions; although there are growing indications that there may be some contribution effects in some situations, the research is far from definitive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-371
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
StatePublished - Oct 27 2016

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  • Judicial decisions
  • Judicial elections


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