Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Judicial Decision Making
Ryan J. Owens and Lee Epstein
For decades, scholars of law and courts have debated the factors that influence judicial decisions. Some analysts assert that legal factors control judges' rulings, while others believe that extralegal factors motivate them. This entry clarifies and contrasts the legal and extralegal factors, presenting first the legal approach and then three categories of extralegal approaches: attitudinal, strategic, and historical-institutional. Proponents of the legal approach hold that judges decide cases based on “the law” without regard to personal policy preferences. By applying legal principles to the facts of cases, judges arrive at sound decisions without interjecting their personal beliefs into them. Although scholars have identified several such legal principles, three appear frequently in social science accounts of judging: stare decisis , intent, and textualism. The legal principle of stare decisis, “let the decision stand,” requires judges relying on this principle to apply precedent to disputes. In applying precedent, judges look for factual ...