The research article being summarized is about the challenges that hinder impartiality of state Supreme Courts. The purpose of the study is to demonstrate that legitimacy is not inflexible and that the reservoir of goodwill typically enjoyed by courts can indeed be depleted by campaign activity (Gibson 59). To understand the contents of this article, we first need to understand the meaning of the following, “impartiality of state supreme courts” and “legitimacy theory.” Impartiality of the state supreme courts entails the ability of the courts to make decisions based on objective criteria rather than bias or prejudice. Legitimacy theory, on the other hand, entails the belief that a rule has the right to govern.
In the article, institutional legitimacy is given more weight as a vital political capital possessed by courts. However, the article outlines that many people believe that this legitimacy is under threat, thanks to the rise of the much-publicized judicial election campaigns and the breakdown of impartiality in the judiciary. According to the article, political capital is fundamental to the effectiveness, acceptance, and implementation of decisions made by institutions. For courts, however, political capital can be substituted by political legitimacy. This legitimacy, according to the article, can be derived when courts differentiate themselves from other political institutions.
In my critical analysis, I concur that the rise of publicized judicial election campaigns and judicial impartiality has made many people in the US to believe that the legitimacy of the state supreme courts is under threat. The US judicial system has not fared well in the public eye recently and this can be attributed to the judicial elections which many belief places a heavy burden on judges as well as introduce bias in the application of justice. Supreme court law clerks, for instance, were not appointed on a partisan basis in the 1970s-80s, but ever since the appointments by the president was introduced, they have begun shifting towards matching the ideology of the president that appointed their chosen justice.
In the article, three features of judicial campaigns are identified as a threat to courts’ impartiality. These include attack ads, campaign contributions, and the candidates’ pronouncements of policy for judicial office (Gibson 59). With regards to attack ads, the article discloses various literature that addresses some of the effects that negative campaigns have on citizens (Gibson 61). Some of this literature reports a drop in voter turnout in elections that are associated with negative ads. The study, however, challenges the authenticity of this literature on grounds that no studies have extensively examined judicial campaigns as the use of attack ads in judicial elections is relatively new. However, the study notes that the use of attack ads in judicial campaigns has displayed judicial candidates as those that bear resemblance to any other political figure.
With regards to campaign contributions, the article looks into a number of studies that have been conducted so far on the influence of campaign contributions on state judiciaries (Gibson 62). Among the studies have reported the appearance of campaign contributors in courts before judges given campaign contributions. Evidence has also suggested that such contributions may be related to individual court decisions in one way or the other. This elicits the question as to whether court office holders are corrupted by campaign contributions. The author successfully answers this question by stating that accepting campaign contributions is a threat to the legitimacy of judicial institutions and those who hold judicial offices. Eventually, policy commitments and prejudgments are identified in the article as a threat to courts’ impartiality (Gibson 63). The influence here is however not well understood as the states prohibit judicial candidates from making policy commitment. According to the state’s theory, such commitments contribute to judges being perceived as biased and as those who may not be able to evaluate future cases on the merit of individual dispute.
The experimental design of this study is based on an experiment that is entrenched within a representative survey of Kentucky residents (Gibson 63). The research was carried out in the summer of 2006 with the aim of examining the impacts of election activity on the legitimacy of state supreme court. In the study, the survey was used, with initial questionnaires being subjected to a formal evaluation. The researchers used Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing in the survey to collect data. The experimental conditions involved random selection of respondents with the interviews being averaged over 20 minutes. Researchers then subjected the final data set to minor post-stratification as well as weighed them by the size of the household of the respondents. The experimental stimulus here was based on the residents’ attitude on the new types of campaign tactics introduced in the state. Based on the results obtained, researchers discovered that campaign contributions have the strongest effects on institutional legitimacy.
In conclusion, the article demonstrates that legitimacy is not inflexible and that the reservoir of goodwill typically enjoyed by courts can indeed be depleted by campaign activity. The study uses three features of judicial campaigns are identified as a threat to courts’ impartiality. These include attack ads, campaign contributions, and the candidates’ pronouncements of policy for judicial office. The experimental design of this study is based on an experiment that is entrenched within a representative survey of Kentucky residents. The study used Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing in the survey to collect data. Based on the results obtained, researchers discovered that campaign contributions have the strongest effects on institutional legitimacy. One strength of the experimental study is that it allows for drawing of causal conclusions regarding interventions and establishing whether attack ads, campaign contributions, and the candidates’ pronouncements of policy for judicial office threatens courts impartiality or not. One weakness of the experimental study is that it cannot typically specify why the outcome of the study occurred.