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Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Public Attitudes Towards Judiciary Quite Unfavorable According to New Study

Details here:

More than half of Americans are angry and disappointed with the nation’s judiciary, a new survey done for the ABA Journal eReport shows.

A majority of the survey respondents agreed with statements that "judicial activism" has reached the crisis stage, and that judges who ignore voters’ values should be impeached. Nearly half agreed with a congressman who said judges are "arrogant, out-of-control and unaccountable...."

The Opinion Research Corp. conducted the survey, calling 1,016 adults throughout the country in early September. Participants included 505 men and 511 women aged 18 or older. Due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina, residents of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi were not polled....

Fifty-six percent of the respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the opinions expressed in each of two survey statements:

  • A U.S. congressman has said, "Judicial activism … seems to have reached a crisis. Judges routinely overrule the will of the people, invent new rights and ignore traditional morality." (Twenty-nine percent strongly agreed and 27 percent somewhat agreed.)
  • A state governor has said that court opinions should be in line with voters’ values, and judges who repeatedly ignore those values should be impeached. (Twenty-eight percent strongly agreed and 28 percent somewhat agreed.)

Forty-six percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the opinion expressed in a third statement:

  • A U.S. congressman has called judges arrogant, out-of-control and unaccountable. (Twenty-one percent strongly agreed and 25 percent somewhat agreed.)

Among the respondents, younger adults were less likely than older adults to agree with all three statements. Those with a college education were more likely to disagree with the statements than high school graduates.

Only 30 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly disagreed with the first statement and 32 percent felt the same way about the second statement. The most disagreement was reflected in the responses to the third statement, with which 38 percent took issue.

Two percent to 3 percent responded "don’t know," and the remainder of the respondents neither agreed nor disagreed with the statements.

The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points, at the 95 percent confidence level....

The congressman referenced in the first question is Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who made the comment at an April 2005 rally in Washington, D.C. The governor in the second question is Matt Blunt, a Missouri Republican, who reportedly made the comment during an interview with a religious publication in May 2005. The congressman in the third question is House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who made the comment in March 2005....

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