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Examining Judicial Outreach Among Federal Judges

Sat, September 2, 8:00 to 9:30am, Westin St. Francis, Elizabethan C


While judges are undoubtedly known for the work they do in solving disputes and writing opinions, another aspect of their work, judicial outreach, has received little scholarly attention. In the states, outreach work has become a useful device for judges wanting to improve public knowledge about courts and confidence in court systems, as well as gain more attention for themselves in the hopes of being reelected or retained. Here, we build on our previous studies of state court judges' outreach work by examining outreach practices among federal district and appellate court judges through a nationwide survey executed in late 2016 (Savchak and Edwards 2013; 2016). We are interested in the amount of outreach work federal judges do, as well as the types of groups they participate with. We also have theoretical interests in federal judges' motivations for judicial outreach. Federal judges serve for life, hence they should possess little self-serving interest in outreach work, but they may share state judges' institutional concerns about legitimacy and the lack of public knowledge about what courts actually do. These institutional goals are especially pertinent for the federal judiciary today as Gallup Poll reports decreases in public confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court (2016), and as the federal courts become increasingly embroiled in inter-institutional clashes over judicial appointments, funding, and jurisdiction areas. If used wisely, judicial outreach may serve as a critical tool for federal judges to improve their standing among the public, if not the other branches, and increase judicial legitimacy.