Home Economics Commitment and cooperation on high courts : a cross-country examination of institutional constraints on judges
Judges Do Not Clearly Tend to Vote in Line with Like-Minded Litigants
A judge may share a number of characteristics with a party. They may have similar ideological or political views, a common province or state of origin, or even a shared personal trait such as professional background. We may expect, for example, that in general conservative judges are more likely to vote in favor of business or perhaps government. Obviously this influence is related to our earlier discussion of ideological voting by judges but looks to the relationship of the judge and the party as opposed to the issue specifically. It is reasonable to suspect that judges may wish to affiliate themselves with a party who is representative of their own worldview or align with that view. In practice, however, it is not so clear.
In the united States, ideology has been called a strong predictor of party success. Individuals enjoy greater success during liberal periods on the court, whereas state and local governments, typically prioritizing order over individual rights, suffer during those same periods. The federal government wins consistently, with some evidence that the success rate is higher when a conservative court is aligned with a conservative administration. However, judges may be more likely to look to the ideology of the party where the appeal is not as important. Where an issue is very important policy-wise, a judge may be more likely to rely on his own ideology than that of the litigant, and vote for the party that best represents his worldview.
There has been relatively little research conducted on the interaction between judges’ ideology and parties’ success rates outside of the united States. Justices on the Supreme Court of Canada have tended not to favor unions—McCormick notes that North American judges may have a normative and ideological bias against unions. In Israel, the High Court of Justice appears to be a “protector of the little person,” and sides with minority causes in order to increase its legiti- macy. In Australia, on the other hand, the judges’ personal views do not appear to play as significant a role in case outcomes.
If we look at whether a judge votes for the appellant or the respondent (as opposed to whether the appellant or respondent wins as in Figure 7-5), we find little consistent evidence of a connection between the ideology of a judge and broad groupings of parties (government, business, associations, and individu- als). In Canada, conservative judges vote in favor of the government at a much higher rate than liberal judges, whether the government was the appellant or respondent (in each case conservative judges were about 23 percent more likely to find in favor of the government than an individual appellant as opposed to about 10 percent for liberal judges). Interestingly, in Canada, conservative judges also tended to favor business and association respondents over individual respondents to a greater extent than liberal judges. Other than Canada, we found no other pattern of connection. Such connection may be difficult to find with broad proxies of ideology and groupings of parties. More detailed analysis is necessary to tease out any such connection that may exist.
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