Judicial Ideology and the Selection of Disputes for U.S. Supreme Court Adjudication
19 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2013
Date Written: December 2013
In political science, the well‐known “attitudinal model” of legal decision making dictates that judges' sincere policy preferences drive legal outcomes. In contrast, the celebrated “selection hypothesis” from the law and economics literature suggests that litigants carefully consider factors affecting potential case success (including judicial ideology) and accordingly choose, in the name of efficiency, to settle or not pursue cases in which legal outcomes can be readily predicted. Thus, judges end up adjudicating a nonrandom set of cases that, in the typical situation, should not lend themselves to ideological judicial decision making. From this perspective, the influence of Supreme Court justices' ideological preferences on outcomes could be obviated by the forward‐thinking decisions of mindful litigants. We are left with two dominant theories on jurisprudential outcomes that appear to be at odds with each other. We endeavor to address this situation by incorporating litigation case sorting considerations into a basic attitudinal account of Supreme Court justice decision making in environmental cases. Our primary thesis is that the influence of judicial ideology on legal outcomes is conditioned on case sorting decisions (by both litigants and justices) that precede the justices' voting decisions on the merits. We augment our assessment of this thesis by evaluating our basic model on a subset of cases involving the Court's most formidable litigator — the federal government. We find that in both scenarios, the influence of justices' attitudes on their merits voting is indeed conditioned on case sorting. We conclude that the effect of justices' attitudes on Supreme Court policy making likely works in both direct and indirect ways in that their known ideological proclivities may lead to the strategic sorting of cases for Supreme Court adjudication.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation