The Small Group Context: Designated District Court Judges in the U.S. Courts of Appeals

29 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2011

See all articles by Paul M. Collins, Jr.

Paul M. Collins, Jr.

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Wendy L. Martinek

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 17, 2011

Abstract

Decision making in the U.S. courts of appeals occurs primarily in three-judge panels. A substantial number of cases are decided by panels that include a judge who is a district court judge serving temporarily on the appeals bench. This means that court of appeals decision making is often a function of small groups with temporary members. Here, we examine whether designated district court judges behave differently than their court of appeals colleagues when they cast their votes in cases they are deciding as members of three-judge appellate panels. In doing so, we suggest a profitable direction for theory building vis-a-vis judicial decision making. Our analysis of the ideological direction of the votes judges cast, as well as the variance in those votes, indicates that judges on three-judge panels are influenced by the preferences of their fellow panelists, and that designated district court judges, while no more variable than their court of appeals colleagues, are more susceptible to the influence of their peers than are regular members of the courts of appeals in a nontrivial number of cases.

Suggested Citation

Collins, Jr., Paul M. and Martinek, Wendy L., The Small Group Context: Designated District Court Judges in the U.S. Courts of Appeals (February 17, 2011). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 8, Issue 1, pp. 177-205, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1784113 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-1461.2010.01205.x

Paul M. Collins, Jr. (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Wendy L. Martinek

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
United States

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