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American Judicial Politics

We often doubt that decisions of judges are driven exceptionally by law. No person can be completely devoid of a bias and subjective preferences even in their professional life. Judges are not an exception. Exploring the motives that drive judges in decision-making is the goal of judicial politics. The study also investigates the interaction between the court and other parts of the political system.
Judicial politics dates back to the early 20th century when legal realists argued that judges create laws based on their personal preferences. By now, we have three major theories explaining judicial decision-making – attitudinal, strategic, and institutional. The attitudinal model was defined by Jeffrey Segal and Harold Spaeth who argued that judges made the law instead of following it. Whether conservatives or liberals, judges are likely to vote according to their old beliefs and personality traits. The attitudinal model satisfactory predicted votes of Supreme Court judges so that it was a popular point of judicial politics in the 1990s until it was challenged by the strategic model.
The strategic model of judicial behavior states that judges cannot always vote out of their personal preferences without taking into account the context of the case. Besides, they cannot achieve their goals without a cooperation of their colleagues. A court decision is not a collection of personal opinions but the cooperation of people who want that decision to be implemented. In the strategic model, judges take into account plenty of external factors and predict the consequences of their decisions instead of acting on a whim within the attitudinal model.
In both models, individual goals of judges are important. The third model of historic institutionalism expands goals to the level of the Court. As an institution, the Court has its own rules. It interacts with other political institutions, and Court practices often determine which decision is acceptable and which one shall not pass.