Government Experience and Judicial Liberalism

In my last post, I explored the result that there is a correlation between judicial liberalism and a higher ranking of the law school attended by a judge. My Judge Database also included a variety of other biographic and demographic information about the judges. Most of those background factors had no statistical relationship with the Ideology Scores. However, one that did show a connection was prior government experience (excluding judicial experience) before nomination. Based upon my research, if a judge had executive or legislative experience at the state or federal level prior to appointment, he or she was much more likely to be politically liberal. Again, as with law school ranking, the effect was true for both Republican and Democratic appointees.This result may not seem particularly surprising if liberalism is associated with a pro-government view and conservatives are relatively anti-government. Interestingly, however, experience in the private sector did not show a statistically significant correlation with judicial ideology. Based upon the findings described in this post and the previous one, Republican Presidents might want to be cautious when appointing judges from highly-ranked schools and who have prior government experience. Similarly, Democratic Presidents might want to take a second look at potential nominees from lower-ranked schools with only private sector experience. Of course, none of this proves a causative relationship, but the differences in the populations of judges are striking.

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2 Responses

  1. Interesting!

    As someone who spends a lot of time in visualization and how it can go awry, I find your use of positive and negative interesting. Have you thought about switching axes? If you portray the values as horizontal bars, I think you could make much more neutral graphs, with a bonus of showing how far “left” or “right” a judge is.

  2. Corey Yung says:

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I actually had never thought about switching the axes, but it makes sense.