Strategic Judicial Lawmaking: An Empirical Investigation of Ideology and Publication on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

54 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2008  

David S. Law

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law; The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law; Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 20, 2004

Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated that, in a number of contexts, federal appeals court judges divide along ideological lines when deciding cases upon the merits. To date, however, researchers have failed to find evidence that circuit judges take advantage of selective publication rules to further their ideological preferences - for example, by voting more ideologically in published cases that have precedential effect than in unpublished cases that lack binding effect upon future panels. This article evaluates the possibility that judges engage in strategic judicial lawmaking by voting more ideologically in published cases than in unpublished cases. To test this hypothesis, all asylum cases decided by the Ninth Circuit over a ten-year period were coded for analysis, and Markov Chain-Monte Carlo methods were used to estimate the extent to which publication increased the likelihood that each judge in the data set would vote in favor of asylum. A number of Democratic appointees proved significantly more likely to vote in favor of asylum in published cases. No such pattern emerged with respect to Republican appointees. This study also confirms earlier findings that Democratic and Republican appointees divide along ideological lines to a significant extent in both published and unpublished cases. The extent of the ideological voting behavior observed in unpublished cases calls into question the validity of much research on judicial behavior, insofar as such research continues to rely exclusively upon the analysis of published opinions and ignores unpublished opinions for reasons of convenience.

Keywords: court of appeals, publication, strategic, ninth circuit, no-citation rule, asylum, judicial behavior

Suggested Citation

Law, David S., Strategic Judicial Lawmaking: An Empirical Investigation of Ideology and Publication on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (September 20, 2004). U San Diego Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=562321 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.562321

David S. Law (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

1 Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
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314-266-9698 (Phone)
314-935-5356 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.davidlaw.ca

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

HOME PAGE: http://www.davidlaw.ca

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Political Science ( email )

One Brookings Drive
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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