We would like to thank Chuck Cameron, Tom Clark, Lewis Kornhauser, Jeff Lax, and participants at workshops at Duke University, New York University, Princeton University, the University of Rochester, and the University of Texas for comments on earlier versions of this article. We would also like to thank six anonymous referees for valuable comments on earlier versions of this mansucript. Friedman's work was supported by the Filomen D’Agostino and Max E. Greenberg Research Fund at New York University School of Law. Martin's work was supported by The Center for Empirical Research in the Law at Washington University Law School. L. Rush Atkinson, Brian Burgess, and Josh Levy provided valuable research assistance. Replication data, robustness checks, and formal proofs of results can be accessed at http://www.unc.edu/~gvanberg/Research.html.
Who Controls the Content of Supreme Court Opinions?
Article first published online: 21 NOV 2011
© 2011, Midwest Political Science Association
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 56, Issue 2, pages 400–412, April 2012
How to Cite
Carrubba, C., Friedman, B., Martin, A. D. and Vanberg, G. (2012), Who Controls the Content of Supreme Court Opinions?. American Journal of Political Science, 56: 400–412. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2011.00557.x
- Issue published online: 16 APR 2012
- Article first published online: 21 NOV 2011
Conventional arguments identify either the median justice or the opinion author as the most influential justices in shaping the content of Supreme Court opinions. We develop a model of judicial decision making that suggests that opinions are likely to reflect the views of the median justice in the majority coalition. This result derives from two features of judicial decision making that have received little attention in previous models. The first is that in deciding a case, justices must resolve a concrete dispute, and that they may have preferences over which party wins the specific case confronting them. The second is that justices who are dissatisfied with an opinion are free to write concurrences (and dissents). We demonstrate that both features undermine the bargaining power of the Court's median and shift influence towards the coalition median. An empirical analysis of concurrence behavior provides significant support for the model.