Interpreting Circuit Court Voting Patterns: A 'Social Interactions' Framework

Forthcoming, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization

5th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper

59 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2010 Last revised: 23 Oct 2012

See all articles by Joshua B. Fischman

Joshua B. Fischman

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: October 22, 2012

Abstract

Many empirical studies have found that circuit judges’ votes are significantly influenced by their panel colleagues. Although this influence is typically measured in terms of colleagues’ characteristics, this article argues that it is better understood as an effect of colleagues’ votes. Applying the latter interpretation, this article reanalyzes eleven prior studies of panel voting, as well as three novel data sets, and reveals the impact of colleagues’ votes to be strikingly uniform. In almost every type of case, each colleague’s vote increases the likelihood that a judge will vote in the same direction by roughly 40 percentage points. This result is consistent with a strong norm of consensus and can account for nearly all of the perceived impact of colleagues’ party, gender, and race. This finding raises questions about strategic and deliberative models of panel voting and helps clarify measurement issues regarding the relationship between judicial characteristics and voting behavior.

Suggested Citation

Fischman, Joshua B., Interpreting Circuit Court Voting Patterns: A 'Social Interactions' Framework (October 22, 2012). Forthcoming, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization , 5th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1636002 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1636002

Joshua B. Fischman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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