Modeling Motivations: A Method for Inferring Judicial Goals from Behavior


Gretchen Helmke is assistant professor of political science, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627. Mitchell S. Sanders is senior research scientist, Harris Interactive, Rochester, NY 14623.


The consensus among most scholars of American politics is that judges are policy seekers. Yet we know very little about what motivates judges in other parts of the world. To begin to address this gap, we develop a systematic method for inferring goals from behavior. Using a simple game-theoretic framework, we generate a series of testable propositions linking behavioral outcomes to goals for four ideal types of judges: loyalists, policy seekers, institutionalists, and careerists. We illustrate the power of our method with original data on individual and collective judicial decision making on the Argentine Supreme Court (1976–2000).