JUDGES FROM ELITE COLLEGES MORE LIKELY TO RULE AGAINST UNIONS
COLUMBUS, Ohio - U.S. appeals court judges who graduated from elite colleges were 30 percent more likely to rule against unions in labor law cases than were judges from less selective colleges, new research has found.
The study also concluded that female Republican judges were much more likely than Republican men to rule in favor of unions.
The study of more than 1,200 cases decided over a seven-year period was conducted by three Ohio State University researchers. They found that numerous personal, professional and political background factors were significantly associated with a judge's likelihood of supporting or rejecting union legal positions.
For example, judges who had previously held elected office were more likely to support unions on certain types of labor law issues, as were Catholic, Jewish and African-American judges. More recent appointees from both parties were significantly less likely to support unions than were earlier appointees.
"Our findings strongly suggest that the social background
"There is a connection between the life experiences of judges and their attitudes toward unions, and these attitudes have some impact on how the judges interpret and apply law," said Brudney, who has served as director of Ohio State's Center for Law, Policy and Social Science.
Brudney conducted the study with Deborah Merritt, a professor of law, and Sara Schiavoni, a doctoral student in political science, both at Ohio State. Their results and analysis were published in a recent issue of the Ohio State Law Journal.
The study is based on all 1,224 U.S. Court of Appeals cases decided between 1986 and 1993 that reviewed unfair labor practice decisions by the National Labor Relations Board.
Brudney said the results show that the social background of judges does play a role in decision-making, but it is not the sole or even most important factor. "Our study confirmed that traditional legal factors like doctrine, precedent and deference to the administrative agency play the primary role for judges in deciding most cases," he said. "But social background cannot be ignored."
The fact that judges from elite colleges were nearly one-third less likely to side with unions shows how life experiences can have an influence, Brudney said. "This result is among the most consistent we identified. Social science scholars have long recognized that the college you attend is one way of measuring social class.
"People who attend elite, expensive, private colleges tend to come from more comfortable economic circumstances, where familiarity with and sympathy for unions is not widespread. The judges in our study who attended less selective colleges, many of them during the decades immediately following World War II, probably came from less privileged backgrounds. They likely had more frequent contact with unions, which may have made them as a group more sympathetic to unions' legal claims," he explained.
Other results of the study:
Brudney explained that the study was unprecedented in scope and depth for several reasons. It includes all decided cases, not just the minority of decisions that are actually published in official federal case reporters. In addition, the data set examines each issue the court ruled on within a case, not simply that case as a whole. The study analyzed more than 2,000 issues on which the appellate courts either affirmed or reversed results reached by the National Labor Relations Board. Finally, the researchers specifically controlled for the outcome before the Labor Board and for the effects of being in a particular geographic circuit court. By addressing the effects of judicial deference to agency determinations and of sharp variations in circuit court cultures, the study takes account of important constraints on the behavior of individual appellate court judges.
The study was supported by the Fund for Labor Relations Studies and Ohio State.
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; email@example.com