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Unpublished Paper
THE SUPREME COURT, SELF-PERSUASION, AND IDEOLOGICAL DRIFT
ExpressO (2011)
  • Molly Wilson, Saint Louis University
Abstract

Whether one conceives of judicial attitudes as culturally derived, emotive values, or ideology-based policy positions, the work of behavioral law theorists, political scientists, and legal realists has amply documented the influence of personal beliefs on judicial decision-making. However, there is evidence for a previously unexplored possibility; the possibility that judges may be systematically more vulnerable to ideological extremes than those outside of the judiciary. There is reason to suspect that specific features of a jurist’s job may lead him or her inevitably toward a greater commitment to his or her own worldviews. In particular, the requirement that judges draft opinions to explain rulings could increase bias, pushing judges farther in the direction of a particular ideology. Evidence for this claim comes from empirical research on attitude formation and change. Several lines of research from social psychology suggests that when an individual provides reasons for his or her own view, that individual may become more extreme in his or her views or more committed to that position. The potential for judicial entrenchment is concerning, particularly given that judges are unlikely to perceive personal bias is operating, making it unlikely that he or she will attempt to counteract it in any way. In order to investigate the potential for opinion writing to influence subsequent ideological drift, I compared the patterns of drift among Supreme Court Justices with opinion assignment data. The findings provide some support for the self-persuasion hypothesis.

Keywords
  • Supreme Court,
  • ideology,
  • social science,
  • opinions,
  • persuasion
Disciplines
Publication Date
March 15, 2011
Citation Information
Molly Wilson. "THE SUPREME COURT, SELF-PERSUASION, AND IDEOLOGICAL DRIFT" ExpressO (2011)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/molly_wilson/1/