Consensus and Ideology in Courts: An Application to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
University of Milan Bicocca Department of Economics, Management and Statistics Working Paper No. 430
52 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2020
Date Written: February 12, 2020
This article argues that judges suppress dissent when it is costly to do so, and that the cost of dissent depends on the political dimension of the issue broached. It contends that judges who disagree may nevertheless try to safeguard integrity and legitimacy in political disputes by presenting a public impression of unity. We muster evidence from the United Kingdom, specifically, votes from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) between 1998 and 2011. We demonstrate through statistical analysis that judges are likelier to suppress dissent in devolution cases, which are more political in character, than in Commonwealth appeals, which are more mundane in nature. We find that while consensus on domestic issues reflects the absence of conflict between judicial ideologies, judges have stronger conflicting positions on issues concerning devolution, but tend to suppress their propensity to dissent. This finding confirms that the Court wants to appear cohesive to give an image of greater authority on decisions of predominantly political content.
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