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Change over Tenure: Voting, Variance, and Decision Making on the U.S. Courts of Appeals

Authors


  • The authors thank Christopher Zorn, Michael Tofias, Thomas Walker, and Stephen Wasby for useful comments on the article and the methodology. Haire acknowledges support provided by the National Science Foundation to conduct this research. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Any errors remain ours.

Erin B. Kaheny is assistant professor of political science, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201 (ekaheny@uwm.edu). Susan Brodie Haire is associate professor of political science, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 (cmshaire@uga.edu). Professor Haire is currently on leave from the University, serving at the National Science Foundation. Sara C. Benesh is associate professor of political science, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201 (sbenesh@uwm.edu).

Abstract

Existing scholarship on the voting behavior of U.S. Courts of Appeals judges finds that their decisions are best understood as a function of law, policy preferences, and factors relating to the institutional context of the circuit court. What previous studies have failed to consider, however, is that the ability to predict circuit judge decisions can vary in substantively important ways and that judges, in different stages of their careers, may behave distinctively. This article develops a theoretical framework which conceptualizes career stage to account for variability in voting by circuit judges and tests hypotheses by modeling the error variance in a vote choice model. The findings indicate that judges are more predictable in their voting during their early and late career stages. Case characteristics and institutional features of the circuit also affect voting consistency.

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