Electing Judges

The Surprising Effects of Campaigning on Judicial Legitimacy
Author(s): James L. Gibson
Original Publish Date: Sep 20, 2012
Product Number: EB00813991
Released: Mar 21, 2020
Business Term: Purchase
ISBN: #9780226291109
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A revealing and provocative study of the effects of judicial elections on state courts and public perceptions of impartiality. In Electing Judges, leading judicial politics scholar James L. Gibson responds to the growing concern that the realities of campaigning are undermining judicial independence and even the rule of law. Armed with empirical evidence, Gibson offers the most systematic and comprehensive study to date of the impact of judicial elections on public perceptions of fairness, impartiality, and the legitimacy of state courts—and his findings are both counterintuitive and controversial. Gibson finds that ordinary Americans do not conclude from campaign promises that judges are incapable of making impartial decisions. Instead, he shows, they understand the process of deciding cases to be an exercise in policy making, rather than of simply applying laws to individual cases—and consequently think it's important for candidates to reveal where they stand on important issues. Negative advertising also turns out to have a limited effect on perceptions of judicial legitimacy, though certain kinds of campaign contributions can create the appearance of improper bias. Taking both the good and bad into consideration, Gibson argues persuasively that elections are ultimately beneficial in boosting the institutional legitimacy of courts, despite the slight negative effects of some campaign activities

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