Oral Arguments and the Process of Coalition Formation on the U.S. Supreme Court

24 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2009

See all articles by Timothy R. Johnson

Timothy R. Johnson

University of Minnesota

Ryan C. Black

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science

Justin Wedeking

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July, 30 2009

Abstract

This paper addresses a major question in the field of judicial politics, namely what determines whether justices join coalitions on the U.S. Supreme Court‘ Scholars have answered this question by analyzing votes at the Court’s agenda setting stage and by analyzing the bargaining and accommodation that occurs when the justices write their opinions. We take a different tack and argue that the coalition formation process begins in earnest during oral arguments. To uncover the inner workings of this process, we draw upon the notes Justice Harry A. Blackmun took of his colleagues’ comments and questions during oral argument. We empirically model both the note taking process and how these notes aided Blackmun in forming coalitions after oral arguments. Our results show systematic patterns in Blackmun’s note taking behavior and, more importantly, that the information Blackmun gained during oral arguments later influenced what coalition he joined.

Keywords: coalition formation, decision making, oral argument, Blackmun, Supreme Court, archival data

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Timothy R. and Black, Ryan C. and Wedeking, Justin, Oral Arguments and the Process of Coalition Formation on the U.S. Supreme Court (July, 30 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1441374 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1441374

Timothy R. Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota ( email )

Department of Political Science
1414 Social Sciences, 267 19th Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0410
United States

Ryan C. Black

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

HOME PAGE: http://ryancblack.org

Justin Wedeking

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science ( email )

1615 Patterson Office Tower
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0027
United States

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