Competing Models of Judicial Coalition Formation and Case Outcome Determination

57 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2006 Last revised: 12 Jan 2009

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 1, 2007


Forming a coalition on a multi-judge panel involves an inherent trade-off between coalition maximization and ideological outcome optimization. Much scholarship is premised on assumptions about how judges make that trade-off; these assumptions have consequences for how we view and measure judicial decision-making. Specifying these assumptions, formally modeling their effects, and basing measures of judicial behavior on these results offers the potential to improve analysis of judicial decision-making.

This article formally explores three commonly posited modes of judicial decision-making: a minimum winning coalition model, representing attitudinalist views of judicial decision-making; a maximum winning coalition, capturing the effect of norms of joint opinion writing and collegiality; and a strategic model, incorporating the concept of the credibility of a marginal justice's threat to defect from a majority coalition. Each model yields comprehensive predictions of case outcome positions and coalition sizes under given court compositions; the Rehnquist Court is examined here. The models are then operationalized as measures for empirical use. The different impact of the three measures is illustrated by re-running Baird and Jacobi's analysis of judicial signaling on case outcomes using each measure.

Keywords: law and economics, legal procedure, the legal system and illegal behavior, econometric and statistical methods, analysis of collective decision-making, economic models of political processes

JEL Classification: K00, K40, C10, D72

Suggested Citation

Jacobi, Tonja, Competing Models of Judicial Coalition Formation and Case Outcome Determination (November 1, 2007). Northwestern Law & Economics Research Paper No. 06-09, Available at SSRN: or

Tonja Jacobi (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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