Judicial Decision-Making: Is the Divorce Between Politics and Judicial Decision-Making Purely Rhetorical?

Robert P. Engvall, Roger Williams University

Judicial decision-making has long been fodder for discussion. The 2000 election in which the U.S. Supreme Court became intimately involved, has heightened both our awareness of judicial discretion in decision-making and the influence that individual and collective decisions have upon us. Should we have been surprised that individuals tend to make decisions in accord with their politicial values and beliefs? Perhaps more to the point, is avoidance of "politics" within judicial making merely a matter of rhetoric without solid foundation in reality, or can it and should it be ultimately and realistically achieved? This presentation will focus upon these and other questions, in the context of decisions made surrounding the 2000 election. By examining decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Circuit Courts, during the course of the contested 2000 election, we may be able to shed some further light upon the disconnect between our lofty judicial rhetoric and our less lofty judicial realities. Beyond an examination of the decisions themselves, and consideration of the historical context concerning those decisions, the study will also assess many works concerning judicial decision-making including the highly controversial work Closed Chambers, by Edward Lazarus.

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Updated 05/20/2006