Mr. Justice Posner? Unpacking the Statistics

30 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2005

See all articles by Stephen J. Choi

Stephen J. Choi

New York University School of Law

G. Mitu Gulati

Duke University School of Law


Judge Richard Posner dominates on several easy-to-observe measures of judicial performance including citation counts and number of opinions published per year. Such easy-to-observe measures offer a useful first step in measuring the overall merit of a particular judge, particularly in the context of determining who would be the best candidate for nomination to the Supreme Court. We have argued elsewhere that even if one disagrees with the value of such easy-to-observe measures, they are still valuable in engendering a second step, more in-depth analysis behind the numbers. Why exactly does Posner receive more citations than others? Is Posner's tremendous productivity simply a product of existing norms on the Seventh Circuit, or is Posner himself related to a shift in the norm toward higher productivity on the Circuit? We provide such an analysis in this essay. Perhaps more important than our own unpacking of the statistics, placing Posner at the top of an objective judicial ranking gives other judges (and their advocates) incentives to reveal otherwise hidden information on exactly why their judges should be placed ahead of Posner for the next opening on the Supreme Court.

Keywords: supreme court, judges, tournament

JEL Classification: K23, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Choi, Stephen J. and Gulati, Gaurang Mitu, Mr. Justice Posner? Unpacking the Statistics. Available at SSRN:

Stephen J. Choi (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Gaurang Mitu Gulati

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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