Oral Arguments and the Process of Coalition Formation on the U.S. Supreme Court
24 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2009
Date Written: July, 30 2009
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
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