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Baltic Journal of Law & Politics

A Journal of Vytautas Magnus University

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Judicial Decision-Making From An Empirical Perspective

Vitalius Tumonis Ph.D., LL.M., LL.B. / Mykolas Šavelskis LL.M., LL.B. / Inga Žalytė
Published Online: 2013-09-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/bjlp-2013-0007


The traditional theories of judicial decision-making have their differences set around the importance of logical, rule-bound, and step-by-step reasoning. For legal formalists, judicial decision-making is predominantly a logical and rule-bound process, and ideally it is a product of syllogistic reasoning. For original legal realists and their contemporary counterparts, judicial decision-making is rarely a logical, step-by-step, and rule-bound process; more often than not, it is better epitomized by intuitive decisions. For a long time this question remained open. The purpose of this article is accordingly twofold. First, by relying on empirical research on decision-making, we argue that logical and rule-bound judicial decision-making, although possible in theory, is highly unlikely in practice. Second, by relying on indirect empirical evidence, we show that judges are very likely to possess unexceptional decision-making skills even when it comes to aspects of decision-making that have not been specifically tested on judges.

KEYWORDS: Judicial decision-making; legal realism; heuristics & biases; intuitive decision-making; expert Judgment

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About the article

Published Online: 2013-09-05

Published in Print: 2013-06-01

Citation Information: Baltic Journal of Law & Politics, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 140–162, ISSN (Print) 2029-0454, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/bjlp-2013-0007.

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