Community and Persuasion: The Influence of the Federalist Society on the Supreme Court
18 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2014
Date Written: 2014
Since its organization in the early 1980s, the Federalist Society has sought to influence the federal courts by promoting conservative and libertarian legal scholarship. Qualitative accounts provide evidence that the Federalist Society has succeeded in this goal by acting as a political epistemic network. Here, I investigate the organization’s influence on a large-N scale. I argue that, if the Federalist Society does indeed proliferate legal arguments throughout its network, we should expect to see shared language among its members. Using plagiarism detection software, I compare the opinions of Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito and Chief Justice Roberts – the Supreme Court’s four Federalist Society members – to the opinions of those trying to influence them (in this preliminary analysis, judges on the U.S. Courts of Appeals) in order find the degree to which they share common phrases. While I find no independent effect of Federalist Society participation on shared language, I do find that these four justices borrow language from judges nominated by Reagan and W. Bush (both sympathetic to the Federalist Society vision) at a higher rate than they do from judges nominated by other presidents.
Keywords: supreme court, judicial politics, federalist society, opinion content
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