Adam Liptak: “Lawyers on average are much more liberal than the general population, a new study has found. But judges are more conservative than the average lawyer, to say nothing of the graduates of top law schools.”
What accounts for the gap? The answer, the study says, is that judicial selection processes are affected by politics.
“Politics plays a really significant role in shaping our judicial system,” said Maya Sen, a political scientist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and one of the authors of the study. Since judges tend to be more conservative than lawyers, she said, it stands to reason that the officials who appoint judges and the voters who elect them are taking account of ideology. She said the phenomenon amounted to a politicization of the courts, driven largely by conservatives’ swimming against the political tide of the legal profession.
“The study explored a distinctive feature of American justice. Foreign legal systems tend to be homogeneous, she said, with lawyers and judges closely aligned ideologically.”
“Conservatives had worked hard and effectively to ensure representation of their views on the courts. They have cultivated candidates for the bench, notably through the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group active on law school campuses.”
“But if the numbers of conservative candidates remains small … it makes strategic sense to deploy candidates on the courts that matter most. The study’s authors call this ‘strategic politicization.’”