Measuring Deviations from Expected Voting Patterns on Collegial Courts

30 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2007 Last revised: 15 Dec 2008

See all articles by Paul H. Edelman

Paul H. Edelman

Vanderbilt University - Law School

David Klein

Eastern Michigan University

Stefanie A. Lindquist

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law

Date Written: October 6, 2007


Even where idiosyncratic factors such as ideology play large and consistent roles in judges' decision-making, there are always cases where the patterns of judges' votes confound our expectations. In some ways, these are among the most interesting cases for scholars, raising important questions about judicial behavior and institutions. In the first part of this paper, we introduce a quantitative measure of deviations from expected voting patterns intended to allow scholars to systematically study unexpected votes and the questions they raise. In the second part, we illustrate the use of this new measure by developing a preliminary model to predict departures from strict ideological voting in the U.S. Supreme Court, in an effort to distinguish alternative explanations for these patterns. Although the conventional wisdom might suggest that disordered voting occurs because of cross-cutting issues, we find little evidence that case complexity is responsible for unexpected coalitions. This result suggests that some alternative explanation exists for such voting behavior; we offer several possibilities - including the influence of legal considerations - in our conclusions.

Keywords: spatial voting, collegial courts, attitudinalism, disorder

Suggested Citation

Edelman, Paul H. and Klein, David and Lindquist, Stefanie A., Measuring Deviations from Expected Voting Patterns on Collegial Courts (October 6, 2007). Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 07-31, Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 5, pp. 819-852, 2008, 2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 07-24, Available at SSRN:

Paul H. Edelman (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-0990 (Phone)
615-322-6631 (Fax)

David Klein

Eastern Michigan University ( email )

Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
United States

Stefanie A. Lindquist

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
512-232-1319 (Phone)

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