Your Honor's Misdeeds: The Consequences of Judicial Scandal on Specific and Diffuse Support
Legitimacy is a bulwark for courts; even when judges engage in controversial or disagreeable behavior, the public tends to acquiesce. Recent studies identify several threats to the legitimacy of courts, including polarization and attacks by political elites. This article contributes to the scholarly discourse by exploring a previously unconsidered threat: scandal, or allegations of personal misbehavior. We argue that scandals can undermine confidence in judges as virtuous arbiters and erode broad public support for the courts. Using survey experiments, we draw on real-world judicial controversies to evaluate the impact of scandal on specific support for judicial actors and their rulings and diffuse support for the judiciary. We demonstrate that scandals erode individual support but find no evidence that institutional support is diminished. These findings may ease normative concerns that isolated indiscretions by controversial jurists may deplete the vast "reservoir of goodwill" that is foundational to the courts.
Boston, Joshua, Benjamin J. Kassow, Ali S. Masood, and David R. Miller. 2023. "Your Honor's Misdeeds: The Consequences of Judicial Scandal on Specific and Diffuse Support." PS: Political Science & Politics: 56(2): 195-200.
Cambridge University Press
PS: Political Science & Politics