Political ideology influences managerial decisions such as mask-wearing in federal judiciary, study finds – The Source

Federal District judges appointed by Republican presidents have been found to be less likely to require masks to be worn in the courtroom during the COVID-19 pandemic, new law school research finds. Washington University in St. Louis.

“We find strong evidence that political ideology influenced the management of the justice system during the pandemic: Republican-appointed chief justices were less likely to require the wearing of masks but more likely to suspend in-person trials” , the study authors wrote,Political Ideology and Judicial Administration: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The study was published online June 9 in Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law’s Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper Series.

“The main takeaway is that we find strong evidence that political ideology has influenced the management of the justice system during the pandemic,” said Kyle Rozema, associate professor of law and one of the four co-authors of the article. “The findings suggest that chief justices made different choices about how to balance concerns about the health and procedural rights of litigants during the pandemic.”

Rozema

The researchers focused on the 24 states that have multiple districts to analyze the impact of a judge’s ideology on the demands issued by state governments. The study looked at data from March 2020 to July 2021.

“Most empirical research on judicial ideology examines the role that ideology plays in case outcomes,” Rozema said. “The aim of the project is to use a framework – the policies enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – as an opportunity to study whether judges’ policy preferences influence their managerial choices. This is a large question about the role that ideology plays in the justice system beyond just case outcomes that has not been much empirically investigated.Our findings thus provide some of the first evidence that ideology can be a force important in the administration of the federal judiciary.

Some key findings:

  • Chief Justice’s ideology has a 24 percentage point impact on mask requirement shows. These estimates suggest that replacing a Chief Justice appointed by a Democratic President with a Chief Justice appointed by a Republican President would have reduced the likelihood of a courthouse having a mask requirement from 52% to 28%.
  • The chief justices’ ideology has effects on stopping criminal and civil trials in person. Replacing a Chief Justice appointed by a Democratic President with a Chief Justice appointed by a Republican President would have increased the likelihood of in-person criminal trials being halted by 47% to 54% (or 15%) and the likelihood that in person civil trials were terminated by 44% to 54% (or 23%).

“Our results suggest that, on average, Republican-appointed and Democratic-appointed chief justices adopted different strategies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors wrote. “Republican-appointed chief justices decided not to require masks to be worn as frequently in courthouses, but they were also less likely to hold in-person trials.

“Democrat-appointed chief justices have placed greater emphasis on holding in-person trials, but they have done so while mandating the wearing of masks in courthouses. In short, based on their ideology, Chief Justices have made different choices about how to balance concerns about the health and procedural rights of litigants in the justice system.

Other co-authors on the study are Adam Chilton of the University of Chicago Law School, Christopher Cotropia of the University of Richmond Law School and David Schwartz of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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