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The American Judicial Performance Database

 

The JPE Research TeamPhoto Credit: R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services

The JPE Research Team
Photo Credit: R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services

The American Judicial Performance Database (AJPD) project aims to refine our understanding of implicit social cognition theory, especially as it applies to assessments of people in leadership positions. The substantive focus is on the assessment of judges in the American states; an important secondary effect is that policy-makers, judges, and the public will be able to evaluate the quality of judges on the bench, as well as the fairness, reliability, and validity of the instruments used to measure judicial performance. Graduate research assistants are assisting the PI with collecting and organizing judicial performance evaluation (JPE) results data from all states that have instituted this procedure. These data come from the judicial performance commissions in the various states and will be supplemented with original data on the background of the judges who were the subjects of these evaluations, as well as alternative measures of judicial performance. The supplementary data come from publicly-available sources and state freedom of information requests, where necessary.

This research is geared toward deepening our understanding of implicit social cognition theory and its manifestation as implicit gender and race bias in the evaluation of public officials in positions that are both race and gender stereotyped. Most of the previous research underlying this cognitive bias theory has relied on self-reported feelings of bias; this project allows for a more systematic evaluation of gender- and race- based disparities in actual performance evaluations. The results will be an important contribution to the scholarly literature in this burgeoning area of inquiry. The dataset will allow for empirical tests of many assumptions about the operation of implicit bias in evaluating people gender and race stereotyped positions. It can also be used to assess judicial quality across state judiciaries. Hypotheses about the effects of judicial selection system, as well as state-level contextual variables, can be evaluated in a systematic way.

This project represents an attempt to refine our theories about implicit bias, and this development will be important for political science generally. These advancements will speak to the experience of women and minorities in political leadership positions more broadly. It will help researchers to understand how our cognitive schemas about leadership positions may unfairly influence our evaluation of these officeholders. An additional important purpose of this project is to provide reliable and actionable information about JPEs to judges and policy makers. The resulting database will be made available to researchers and state judicial performance commissions in downloadable format, and it will be presented for the general public in an interactive website. A summary of JPE best practices will be produced as a result of the analysis, allowing policymakers to revisit their JPE programs with the benefit of empirical data.

This project is funded primarily by the Law & Social Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation (SES: 1354544). The dataset will also include information gathered in two previous projects. The first is a project with coauthor Sylvia R. Lazos, in which we collected early version of the data on judicial performance evaluations in Clark County, Nevada. That project was funded in part by the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). These data have been updated as part of the NSF-funded research project for inclusion in the AJPD. The second previous project was funded by a Faculty Opportunity Award in 2012 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas through the Office of Research and Economic Development. That project, “Assessing Judicial Performance Evaluations for Race and Gender Bias,” provided a pilot study of judicial performance evaluations in Colorado. These data have also been updated as part of the NSF-funded research project for inclusion in the AJPD.

This project is still in progress. When the data collection is complete in early 2018, this website will be updated to include links to the aggregate database, state-level databases, two respondent-level databases (Utah and Nevada), data documentation, interactive tools, and a list of publications that use these data. To learn more about the dataset, please contact Rebecca Gill (PI) at rebecca.gill@unlv.edu.

The AJPD Research Team:

  • Rebecca Gill (PI)
  • Katherine Eugenis
  • Sean Goff
  • Rafael Oganesyan
  • Justin Ponkow
  • Kenneth Retzl

Publications Using Data from the AJPD