Judicial Decision-Making From An Empirical Perspective

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The traditional theories of judicial decision-making have their differences set around the importance of logical, rule-bound, and step-by-step reasoning. For legal formalists, judicial decision-making is predominantly a logical and rule-bound process, and ideally it is a product of syllogistic reasoning. For original legal realists and their contemporary counterparts, judicial decision-making is rarely a logical, step-by-step, and rule-bound process; more often than not, it is better epitomized by intuitive decisions. For a long time this question remained open. The purpose of this article is accordingly twofold. First, by relying on empirical research on decision-making, we argue that logical and rule-bound judicial decision-making, although possible in theory, is highly unlikely in practice. Second, by relying on indirect empirical evidence, we show that judges are very likely to possess unexceptional decision-making skills even when it comes to aspects of decision-making that have not been specifically tested on judges.

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