Authorial Control of the Supreme Court

66 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2017 Last revised: 30 Jun 2021

Date Written: October 6, 2017


The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court authors many of the most important opinions coming out of the Court. The prestige of authoring an important policy decision, and the value that such an opinion adds to the legacy of the Chief Justice’s Court, plays an important and strategic role in the Court’s opinion authorship dynamics and the policy outcomes of the Court. We present a Supreme Court decision-making model that, within the confines of legal doctrine, incorporates the authorship utility of the Chief Justice (and senior associate justices who hold secondary, yet important, property rights over authorship). New predictions emerge about who authors the Court’s opinion, what case outcome is chosen by the justices, which legal doctrines are chosen, and which decisions are unanimous among the justices. We illustrate aspects of the model with recent Supreme Court decisions involving health care and campaign financing.

Keywords: Judicial Reputation, Supreme Court, Authorial Control, Chief Justice

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40

Suggested Citation

Bustos, Álvaro E. and Tiller, Emerson H., Authorial Control of the Supreme Court (October 6, 2017). International Review of Law and Economics, Vol. 67, 2021, Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 17-12, Available at SSRN: or

Álvaro E. Bustos

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile ( email )

Vicuna Mackena 4860. Macul


Emerson H. Tiller (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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