Does justice depend on what the judge had for breakfast?  To some extent, the answer is, perhaps, yes.  Or, perhaps more accurately, it is dependent on when they had breakfast and when justice is sought.

In a 2011 study by Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav and Liora Avnaim-Pesso, it was found that  in the context parole hearings, there is a good time and a bad time to have your hearing held.

The study, published at Extraneous factors in judicial decisions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 108, no. 17 (April 26, 2011), found that the percentage of “favourable” rulings dropped gradually from 65% to 0% as the morning went on. The favourable ruling percentage shot up again after the morning break, and the afternoon break, only to drop as the day’s sittings went on.

The authors conclude that their results indicate that extraneous variables can influence judicial decisions. Further, they conclude that their findings support the view that “the law is indeterminate by showing that legally irrelevant situational developments – in this case, merely taking a food break – may lead a judge to rule differently in cases with similar legal characteristics.” 

It is not clear how this may apply to civil litigation, where one litigant’s “favourable decision” is another litigant’s “unfavourable decision”.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Trudelle