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Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Poll on Judges

Eugene Volokh is a law professor who blogs on laws and judicial decisions. He recently commented (negatively) on a judge who told his colleagues that they were essentially nitpickers and should not have wasted their time on the case.

It was a colorful dissent and Volokh opined that it did not meet his standards of judicial conduct. I thought it was funny and spot-on. But then, I'm not a lawyer.

But here is a survey that should worry lawyers, judges, and law professors. While judges are still ahead of Congress and the President in the opinion of the average person, they are no longer revered. In fact, roughly half of the people polled believed that judges were not impartial, but instead allowed their personal opinions influence their decisions.

When asked whether the partisan backgrounds of judges influences their decisions,
42 % say a lot, 44 % say some, and only 10 % say not much at all. When asked if “in many cases judges are really basing their decisions on their own personal beliefs” 56 % agree and only 36 % disagree.

When asked if the courts are out of step with the American public, 47 % agree and 44 % disagree.

Judges always say that their decisions are based on the law and the Constitution, but in many cases judges are really basing their decisions on their own personal beliefs.
Agree: 55.8%
Disagree 36.4%
No opinion 7.8%

If you look at the other questions on the survey, people want in independent judiciary, but they don't believe that judges base their decisions on the law, but on their personal preferences. In other words, they see the courts as legislators in dresses.

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