Judicial Stratification and the Reputations of the United States Courts of Appeals

45 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2005

See all articles by Michael Solimine

Michael Solimine

University of Cincinnati - College of Law


In the past decade there has been a boomlet of studies, using citation analysis, to gauge the reputation or influence of particular judges. Until recently, however, there has been little systematic study of the reputation or influence of multimember courts as such. My goal in this article is to fill some of that gap by exploring the reputations - both historically and at the present time - of the individual U.S. Courts of Appeals. That is, I will compare and contrast the reputation of the thirteen (as the number stands now) Courts of Appeals: the First through Eleventh Circuits, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the Federal Circuit.

The article proceeds as follows. Part II addresses and disentangles the concepts of reputation, prestige, and influence, particularly as they are used in the legal community. It considers various measures of those concepts, principally though not only through citation analysis. I address the pros and cons of that, and other, measures, and problems associated in attributing reputation to collective entities, like multi-judge courts. In Part III, I address efforts, both historical and contemporary, to measure the reputations of the Courts of Appeals. Initially, I consider various accounts from the popular press and other non-scholarly sources which attempt to rank the circuits. Then I turn to somewhat more objective measures, such as surveys of attorneys and federal judges, of the reputations of circuits. Finally, I consider how various studies of citation analysis of the influence of particular federal appellate judges can be brought to bear on the reputation of the circuits on which they sit.

To anticipate the conclusion: as Part III outlines, historically and to some extent to the present day, the Second and D.C. Circuits have been regarded as enjoying the most reputation and influence. Yet some, though not all, of the putatively objective measures of influence place the Seventh Circuit far above those two. In Part IV, I explore this apparent disconnect. In that Part, I conclude that a variety of factors have led, in general, to the overall homogenization of reputation among the circuits, with the notable apparent exceptions of the D.C., Second, and especially the Seventh Circuits. In the Conclusion to the Article, I briefly address whether reputation in this context remains a meaningful concept, offer suggestions for future research, and link measures of circuit reputation to the measurement of judicial performance in general.

Keywords: United States Court of Appeals, Federal Courts

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Solimine, Michael, Judicial Stratification and the Reputations of the United States Courts of Appeals. Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 32, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=686791

Michael Solimine (Contact Author)

University of Cincinnati - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210040
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0040
United States
513-556-0102 (Phone)
513-556-1236 (Fax)

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