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Freakonomics Applied to Judicial Hulabaloo

I have no idea if Priscilla Owen is a good judge or not, but a fellow named Chris Wildermuth decided to use freakonomics to see why the opinion of her had changed so radically in recent years. His entire riff can be found here, on a blog called Power Line; but here’s a taste:Reading “Freakonomics” helps you spot interesting trends in every day life, and helps you not just ask “what’s wrong with this picture?” but to also answer it.

For example, the bogus results of the Houston Bar Association (HBA) poll that ranked Priscilla Owen as the worst judge looked a bit out of whack. So I compared it to the 2001 poll (also helpfully listed on the HBA site), which is the last survey done BEFORE she was first nominated by President Bush.

Here are the overall 2005 results:

Outstanding
39.5

Acceptable
15.2

Poor
45.3

Wow, that seems pretty poor. Except you have to know the sample size is 350 lawyers, so every 3.5 lawyers change the results 1%. Further, her results seem fairly polarized. Not much middle ground. Could she be that polarizing? Or perhaps the HBA lawyers are biased? Maybe if we look at Owen’s 2001 results that might tell us something …


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