The Small Group Context: Designated District Court Judges in the United States Courts of Appeals

43 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2008 Last revised: 28 Apr 2008

See all articles by Paul M. Collins

Paul M. Collins

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Political Science

Wendy L. Martinek

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 04/22/08

Abstract

Decision making in the United States Courts of Appeals occurs primarily in three-judge panels with rotating membership. A substantial number of court of appeals cases are decided by panels that include a judge who is not a regular court of appeals jurist but is, instead, a district court judge serving temporarily on the court of appeals bench. This means that court of appeals decision making is often a function of small groups with temporary members. In this article, we set out to examine whether designated district court judges behave differently than their court of appeals colleagues with whom they render decisions. And, in doing so, we suggest a profitable direction for theory building vis-à-vis judicial decision making. Our analysis of the ideological direction of the votes judges cast as well as the variance in those votes indicates that judges on three-judge panels are influenced by the preferences of their fellow panelists, and that designated district court judges, while no more variable than their court of appeals colleagues, are more susceptible to the influence of their peers than regular members of the courts of appeals in a non-trivial number of cases. As such, we conclude that designated district judges are not fully fungible with court of appeals jurists in a significant minority of cases.

Suggested Citation

Collins, Paul M. and Martinek, Wendy L., The Small Group Context: Designated District Court Judges in the United States Courts of Appeals (04/22/08). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1120957 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1120957

Paul M. Collins

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Political Science ( email )

Thompson Hall
Amherst, MA 01003
United States

Wendy L. Martinek (Contact Author)

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
United States

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