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Mavericks, Moderates, or Drifters? Supreme Court Voting Alignments, 1838-2009

46 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2011 Last revised: 28 Feb 2012

Christine Kexel Chabot

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Benjamin Remy Chabot

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Date Written: March 21, 2011

Abstract

We introduce a new data set recording the vote of every Justice in 18,812 Supreme Court cases decided between 1838 and 1949. When combined with existing data sets, our new data allow us to examine votes in all cases through 2009. We use this data to address previously unanswerable questions about the president's ability to appoint Supreme Court Justices of similar ideology. Surprisingly, history shows that the president’s odds of appointing a Justice who sides with appointees of his party have been no better than a coin flip. We find no evidence that divided government at the time of nomination increased the percentage of appointees who voted across party lines. These findings cast doubt on the hypothesis that appointments bring the Court in line with majoritarian views. Indeed, many failed appointments occurred when a majority of the Senate and the president were of the same party. These mavericks are not outliers, but part of a larger pattern of appointees whose votes departed or drifted away from executive expectations at remarkable frequency throughout our nation's history.

Keywords: Empirical, Supreme Court, Appointments, Divided Government, Federal Courts

JEL Classification: K30, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Chabot, Christine Kexel and Chabot, Benjamin Remy, Mavericks, Moderates, or Drifters? Supreme Court Voting Alignments, 1838-2009 (March 21, 2011). Missouri Law Review, Vol. 76, p. 999, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1792145

Christine Kexel Chabot (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
8477804832 (Phone)

Benjamin Remy Chabot

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

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