Summer is over and football is back. My University of Texas Longhorns are off to a great start with a big season-opening win over Notre Dame. Even my daughter’s high school is 2-0. Everything about football season is great, right?
You see, football season may be affecting your case.
Earlier this week, the Atlantic published a concerning story about a study from LSU economists Naci Mocan and Ozkan Eren, who found that the results of college football games affect how judges rule. The story states:
In looking at decisions handed down by judges in Louisiana’s juvenile courts between 1996 and 2012, the pair found that when LSU lost football games it was expected to win, judges — specifically those who had earned their bachelor’s degrees from the school — issued harsher sentences following the loss. When the team was ranked in the top 10 before the losing game, kids wound up behind bars for about two months longer, on average. When the team was not as highly ranked, it was a little more than a month.
This was a pretty broad study, looking at over 8,200 cases involving 207 judges. The economists screened for the kids’ behavior in court, economic background, and even tested placebos through non-LSU games, and none of those factors had the same impact as football.
Some have criticized the findings, but the economists hope that their research will strengthen a growing body of evidence that suggests emotions influence unrelated decisions and that the study will perhaps help judges become aware of the decision-making and make the judges more careful.
That emotion is an issue. Those of us who are trial lawyers know that jurors and judges often make emotional decisions and then try to subconsciously rationalize those decisions through their view of the logic of the case. We’ve factored in for that. But I guess now, we need to start asking jurors in voir dire about their football teams too.
Having said all that, enjoy Friday Night Lights, college football and the NFL this weekend.