This Article presents an empirical performance ranking of 383 federal appellate judges who served on the United States Courts of Appeals between 1960 and 2008. Like existing judge evaluation studies, this Article uses citations from judicial opinions to assess judicial quality. Unlike existing citation studies, which treat positive and negative citations alike, this Article ranks judges according to the mix of positive and negative citations to the opinions, rather than the number of citations to those opinions. By distinguishing between positive and negative citations, this approach avoids ranking judges higher for citations even when the judges are being cited negatively. The results are strikingly different from those found in the existing citation count based studies of judicial performance. When the mix of positive and negative citations is taken into account, many of the most highly cited judges from the citation-count studies are only average and some of the average judges in the citation-count studies emerge as the most positively cited. The results suggest there is an objective performance measure that can measure judicial performance and provide incentives for fidelity to the rule of law
Distinguishing Judges: An Empirical Ranking of Judicial Quality in the United States Court of Appeals,
76 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol76/iss2/2