Who Controls the Content of Supreme Court Opinions?

American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 56, No. 2

NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper

13 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2018

See all articles by Clifford Carrubba

Clifford Carrubba

Emory University - Department of Political Science

Barry Friedman

New York University School of Law

Andrew D. Martin

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - College of Literature, Science & the Arts

Georg Vanberg

Duke University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 1, 2012

Abstract

Conventional arguments identify either the median justice or the opinion author as the most influential justices in shaping the content of Supreme Court opinions. We develop a model of judicial decision making that suggests that opinions are likely to reflect the views of the median justice in the majority coalition. This result derives from two features of judicial decision making that have received little attention in previous models. The first is that in deciding a case, justices must resolve a concrete dispute, and that they may have preferences over which party wins the specific case confronting them. The second is that justices who are dissatisfied with an opinion are free to write concurrences (and dissents). We demonstrate that both features undermine the bargaining power of the Court’s median and shift influence towards the coalition median. An empirical analysis of concurrence behavior provides significant support for the model.

Suggested Citation

Carrubba, Clifford and Friedman, Barry and Martin, Andrew D. and Vanberg, Georg, Who Controls the Content of Supreme Court Opinions? (April 1, 2012). American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 56, No. 2; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2821706

Clifford Carrubba

Emory University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-7915 (Phone)
404-727-4586 (Fax)

Barry Friedman (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
Room 317
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
212-998-6293 (Phone)
212-995-4030 (Fax)

Andrew D. Martin

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - College of Literature, Science & the Arts ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.lsa.umich.edu/admart

Georg Vanberg

Duke University - Department of Political Science ( email )

140 Science Drive (Gross Hall), 2nd floor
Duke University Mailcode: 90204
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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