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Making the Court Come to Life: Developing Effective Judicial Politics Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  judicial politics. First, a focus on state judicial selection forces students to abandon the notion that “the judiciary” is a single entity. Rather, it encourages them to think about the broad range of judicial institutions (“the judiciaries”) that exist in the United States. Since the vast majority of cases are handled in the state courts, state judicial selection arguably has a far broader influence on the actual course of law than Supreme Court selection. These cases also ask students to engage much larger questions about the notion of fair and impartial courts. As Alan Tarr (2006) writes in the introduction of his discussion of judicial selection methods: Basic to our understanding of a fair trial are the notions of judicial impartiality and neutrality; we believe that rulings should be unaffected by political considerations or the identity of the litigants… if judges are to act impartially, they must be freed from pressures to act otherwise. This freedom from external pressures is known as judicial independence… The American concern for judicial independence, however, is in tension with another deeply held American value: the accountability of governmental officials. In democratic systems citizens select those who wield power and hold them accountable for its exercise… Advocates of judicial accountability maintain that because judges, like legislators, make decisions that have broad societal effects, they too should be answerable for their decisions… We want judges who are impartial, yet we also want them to be mindful of community sentiment… we also differ among ourselves about the attributes and qualities that judges should have (pg. 56-57). Given the political dynamics of judicial decisions, and the new trend toward more attacks on the judiciary, this is a particularly important point. Students are confronted with the political rhetoric about the proper role and function of the judiciary on a regular basis and one of the central goals of my class is to encourage critical thinking about these questions. 15 15 My syllabus for the course includes the following language: “American citizens are confronted with claims about the judicial branches of government on a regular basis – including statements about judicial activism and restraint, the political ramifications of judicial decisions (at the local, state, and federal level), and the proper place of the judiciary in democratic systems of governance. By the end of this course, you should be prepared to think critically about these questions and arrive at sophisticated assessments of what you believe to be the role and function of courts.” A final exam question asks them to apply this knowledge. In the fall of 2007, the final exam question asked them to provide an analysis of the treatment of the Pakistani judiciary under the State of Emergency given the American experience with democratic theories of judicial power and judicial constraint.

Authors: Caufield, Rachel.
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judicial politics. First, a focus on state judicial selection forces students to abandon the notion
that “the judiciary” is a single entity. Rather, it encourages them to think about the broad range
of judicial institutions (“the judiciaries”) that exist in the United States. Since the vast majority
of cases are handled in the state courts, state judicial selection arguably has a far broader
influence on the actual course of law than Supreme Court selection.
These cases also ask students to engage much larger questions about the notion of fair
and impartial courts. As Alan Tarr (2006) writes in the introduction of his discussion of judicial
selection methods:
Basic to our understanding of a fair trial are the notions of judicial impartiality
and neutrality; we believe that rulings should be unaffected by political
considerations or the identity of the litigants… if judges are to act impartially,
they must be freed from pressures to act otherwise. This freedom from external
pressures is known as judicial independence… The American concern for
judicial independence, however, is in tension with another deeply held American
value: the accountability of governmental officials. In democratic systems
citizens select those who wield power and hold them accountable for its
exercise… Advocates of judicial accountability maintain that because judges,
like legislators, make decisions that have broad societal effects, they too should be
answerable for their decisions… We want judges who are impartial, yet we also
want them to be mindful of community sentiment… we also differ among
ourselves about the attributes and qualities that judges should have (pg. 56-57).
Given the political dynamics of judicial decisions, and the new trend toward more attacks on the
judiciary, this is a particularly important point. Students are confronted with the political
rhetoric about the proper role and function of the judiciary on a regular basis and one of the
central goals of my class is to encourage critical thinking about these questions.
15
My syllabus for the course includes the following language: “American citizens are confronted with claims about
the judicial branches of government on a regular basis – including statements about judicial activism and restraint,
the political ramifications of judicial decisions (at the local, state, and federal level), and the proper place of the
judiciary in democratic systems of governance. By the end of this course, you should be prepared to think critically
about these questions and arrive at sophisticated assessments of what you believe to be the role and function of
courts.” A final exam question asks them to apply this knowledge. In the fall of 2007, the final exam question
asked them to provide an analysis of the treatment of the Pakistani judiciary under the State of Emergency given the
American experience with democratic theories of judicial power and judicial constraint.


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