The Roberts' Court
isomin at gmu.edu
isomin at gmu.edu
Tue Sep 13 14:05:01 PDT 2005
As a longtime baseball fan, I would note that there is considerable variation among umpires regarding the size and location of the strike zone, and Major League Baseball has tried to crack down on this several times since the 1960s, with mixed success. MLB has also tried to expand or contract the strike zone on occasion, usually with greater success. For example, the massive reduction in scoring in the 1960s was partly due to MLB's successful effort to expand the strike zone. When MLB reversed its decision after the 1968 "Year of the Pitcher" (the lowest-scoring year of the last 85), scoring quickly began to go up again.
There are many differences between baseball and law, so I think that the umpire analogy is of limited utility, except as a broad general statement that judges should strive for neutrality, objectivity, and precision (and I doubt that Roberts meant to suggest anything more than this). However, MLB's difficulties with constraining umpire discretion does convey the lesson that it is hard to constrain judicial discretion in situations where the boundaries of a rule are imprecise and hard to monitor. Note also, however, that MLB has more control over the incentives of umpires than any external body has over the Supreme Court.
Assistant Professor of Law
George Mason University School of Law
3301 Fairfax Dr.
Arlington, VA 22201
e-mail: isomin at gmu.edu
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