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Acclimation Effects and Separate Opinion Writing in the U.S. Courts of Appeals


  • *Direct correspondence to Virginia Hettinger, Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut, 341 Mansfield Road, Unit 1024, Storrs, CT 06269-1024 〈〉. All data and coding materials necessary to replicate this study are available upon request from the authors. Vanessa Baird, Martha Ginn, Susan Haire, Rorie Spill, Stephen Wasby, and Harold J. Spaeth all graciously provided comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. All errors and omissions, of course, remain those of the authors. The authors' names are listed in alphabetical order; each made an equal contribution to the completed project.


Objective. This article investigates the existence of a freshman effect on separate opinion authorship on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. First, we evaluate the extent to which freshman judges demonstrate unique behavior with respect to writing concurring and dissenting opinions. Second, we examine the potential for background factors to condition any freshman effect.

Methods. Individual judges' decisions to author separate opinions, drawn from the Courts of Appeals Database (1960 to 1988), are modeled as a function of a host of individual- and circuit-level factors, including the freshman status of the judge.

Results. After controlling for alternative explanations, we find that freshman judges on the courts of appeals are less likely to author concurring and dissenting opinions. Prior federal or appellate court experience, however, does not appear to condition the freshman effect.

Conclusion. Freshman circuit court judges experience significant acclimation effects following their elevation to the federal appellate bench.

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