Bargaining and Opinion Assignment on the US Supreme Court
Posted: 23 Jun 2008
Date Written: June 2007
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.
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