Judicial Hierarchy and Discursive Influence

Forthcoming in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A

Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2023-70

13 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2023

See all articles by Felix Herron

Felix Herron

Sorbonne University

Keith Carlson

Dartmouth College

Daniel Rockmore

Dartmouth College - Department of Mathematics; Dartmouth College - Department of Computer Science

Michael A. Livermore

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: October 16, 2023

Abstract

We apply a dynamic influence model to the opinions of the U.S. federal courts to examine the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in influencing the direction of legal discourse in the federal courts. We propose two mechanisms for how the Court affects innovation in legal language: a selection mechanism where the Court's influence primarily derives from its discretionary jurisdiction, and an authorship mechanism in which the Court's influence derives directly from its own innovations. To test these alternative hypotheses, we develop a novel influence measure based on a dynamic topic model that separates the Court's own language innovations from those of the lower courts. Applying this measure to the U.S. federal courts, we find that the Supreme Court primarily exercises influence though the selection mechanism, with modest additional influence attributable to the authorship mechanism.

Keywords: Supreme Court; federal courts; topic model; dynamic topic model; document influence

Suggested Citation

Herron, Felix and Carlson, Keith and Rockmore, Daniel and Livermore, Michael A., Judicial Hierarchy and Discursive Influence (October 16, 2023). Forthcoming in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2023-70, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4603546 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4603546

Felix Herron

Sorbonne University

Keith Carlson

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Daniel Rockmore

Dartmouth College - Department of Mathematics ( email )

United States

Dartmouth College - Department of Computer Science ( email )

United States

Michael A. Livermore (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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