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Judicial Decision Making

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.

Legal Approach

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 ...

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