It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that 2017 was the best of times and the worst of times for classical liberalism in the United States but not much of one.
A new study shows that American judges, particularly federal judges, are more conservative than the average lawyer. It contains a lot of interesting information, but its normative conclusion–that this disparity shows “politicization” in the judiciary– is wrong-headed. Indeed, that claim likely shows more about the politicization of the academia than anything about the judiciary.
The study seems well designed. It uses campaign contributions as a proxy for the political affiliations of lawyers. In this respect, as the authors recognize, it follows a 2004 article of mine, which showed that law faculty at elite law schools contributed to Democrats over Republicans by a margin of about 11-2. And this new study reveals interesting information, as most easily visualized in this hyperlinked chart. Lawyers are by and large liberal. As one would expect, legal academics and public defenders are more liberal than partners at top law firms, but these partners are liberal as well. Lawyers from T-14 law schools are more liberal than those from lower ranked schools. Female lawyers are more liberal than male lawyers. Federal judges are less liberal than lawyers as a whole and federal appellate judges break slightly to the right.
So far, so good. But then the study makes the claim that this difference represents the “politicization” of the judiciary.