Values and Decisions: Division in the Supreme Court

Values and Decisions: Division in the Supreme Court

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This research draws on theories and techniques from psychology to explore the influence of personal values on the exercise of judicial discretion and judicial decision making in the Supreme Court. This paper will argue, that although law frames and constraints decision making, in hard cases personal values play a role. This work centres on cases which divide judicial opinion in the Supreme Court. Using a framework, which relates values to ten overarching motivations, a method of content analysis was developed which related judicial statements to values. The value content analysis of cases which divided judicial opinion revealed a differential pattern of value expression in the judgments of the majority and minority. This differential pattern was reflected in all cases. Value expression was also associated with agreement in the Court, with those who express similar values reaching similar decisions in cases which divided opinion. These findings start to reveal the role of values in judicial decisions in the Supreme Court which has importance to debates surrounding judicial decision making, judicial diversity and judicial selection.

Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan, Senior lecturer at the University of Cardiff
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