Bargaining and Opinion Assignment on the US Supreme Court

Posted: 23 Jun 2008

See all articles by Jeffrey R. Lax

Jeffrey R. Lax

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Charles M. Cameron

Princeton University - Department of Political Science; Princeton University - Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

We formulate a new game-theoretic model of bargaining on the US Supreme Court. In the model, a degree of monopoly power over policy endogenously accrues to the assigned writer despite an open rule permitting other justices to make counteroffers. We assume justices are motivated ultimately by a concern for judicial policy, but that the policy impact of an opinion depends partly on its persuasiveness, clarity, and craftsmanship-its legal quality. The effort cost of producing a high-quality opinion creates a wedge that the assignee can exploit to move an opinion from the median without provoking a winning counteroffer. We use this bargaining model as the foundation for a formal analysis of opinion assignment. Both the bargaining and opinion assignment models display rich and tractable comparative statics, allowing them to explain well-known empirical regularities, as well as to generate new propositions, all within a unified and internally consistent framework.

Suggested Citation

Lax, Jeffrey R. and Cameron, Charles M., Bargaining and Opinion Assignment on the US Supreme Court (June 2007). The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 23, Issue 2, pp. 276-302, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1150028 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jleo/ewm023

Jeffrey R. Lax (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

MC3320
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Charles M. Cameron

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States

Princeton University - Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

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