Barry Friedman (NYU) recently published an extremely interesting piece (here) in the current Perspectives on Politics (4:2, June 2006, at 261-76) that will assuredly stimulate discussion, especially among those who study judicial behavior. As Steve Wasby (SUNY-Albany) suggests:
"One should run, not walk, to ... Barry Friedman's article.... It is, in my view (which will not make me friends), a very well-done article. He is an equal opportunity 'skewerer,' coming down on attitudinalists and 'strategists' alike."
Setting aside many and larger points of inter- (and, perhaps, intra-) disciplinary debate that Barry's piece provokes, among the important points for legal empiricists that warrant close attention include:
"Finally, empiricists in particular must take great care that the data upon which they rely presents an accurate picture of the legal world they are studying. Collecting data on the judiciary is extremely difficult and time consuming, and the temptation is great to allow the ready availability of data to define the questions that are asked and the way in which they are answered. That temptation should be avoided, because it runs the risk of presenting an incomplete and idiosyncratic view of the legal system."
Barry is correct on both fronts--Data collection is hard work and, nevertheless, the "temptation" should be avoided.