Lee Epstein (Washington University at St. Louis, USA), The Study of Judicial Behavior

On 23 October 2017, we received Lee Epstein, from the Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Epstein is an expert in judicial behavior and has written several books on the subject, such as “The Behavior of Federal Judges” (2013) and “The Oxford Handbook on U.S. Judicial Behavior” (2017).
Professor Epstein presented the results of her studies on the behavior of the individual judge and the collegial court. Concerning the first, she argued that ideology plays a role in judges’ decisions, that female judges decide cases different from male judges in cases involving labor discrimination and that the possibility of promotion affects judges’ decisions. Concerning collegiate courts, she pointed that women tend to rule in favor of women in labor discrimination cases, that there is a dissent aversion that involves costs (such as the collegiate effort) and benefits (such as reputation and influence); and that elected and tenured judges tend to rule differently, especially when close to elections.
Professor Epstein argued that it is necessary to recognise the limits of the rationality assumption in relation to judges, since their affective responses to litigants are inevitable. In addition, she pointed that the research on judicial behavior needs to move beyond the US, expanding its horizon.


Virgílio Afonso da Silva
Author: Virgílio Afonso da Silva

Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Sao Paulo.