Mavericks, Moderates, or Drifters? Supreme Court Voting Alignments, 1838-2009
Christine Kexel Chabot
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Benjamin Remy Chabot
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
March 21, 2011
Missouri Law Review, Vol. 76, p. 999, 2011
We introduce a new data set recording the vote of every Justice in 18,812 Supreme Court cases decided between 1838 and 1949. When combined with existing data sets, our new data allow us to examine votes in all cases through 2009. We use this data to address previously unanswerable questions about the president's ability to appoint Supreme Court Justices of similar ideology. Surprisingly, history shows that the president’s odds of appointing a Justice who sides with appointees of his party have been no better than a coin flip. We find no evidence that divided government at the time of nomination increased the percentage of appointees who voted across party lines. These findings cast doubt on the hypothesis that appointments bring the Court in line with majoritarian views. Indeed, many failed appointments occurred when a majority of the Senate and the president were of the same party. These mavericks are not outliers, but part of a larger pattern of appointees whose votes departed or drifted away from executive expectations at remarkable frequency throughout our nation's history.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: Empirical, Supreme Court, Appointments, Divided Government, Federal Courts
JEL Classification: K30, K40, K41
Date posted: March 27, 2011 ; Last revised: February 28, 2012
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