Judicial Ideology and the Selection of Disputes for U.S. Supreme Court Adjudication
31 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2014
Date Written: June 16, 2014
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 to settle or not pursue cases in which legal outcomes can be readily predicted in the name of efficiency. Thus, judges end up adjudicating a non-random set of cases which, 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 that precede the justices’ case decisions on 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.
Keywords: judicial politics, presidency, lawyers, solicitor general, US Supreme Court
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By Ralf Poscher