Journal Article

Competing Models of Judicial Coalition Formation and Case Outcome Determination

Tonja Jacobi

in Journal of Legal Analysis

Published on behalf of The John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business at Harvard Law School with the support of the Considine Family Foundation

Volume 1, issue 2, pages 411-458
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 2161-7201
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1946-5319 | DOI:
Competing Models of Judicial Coalition Formation and Case Outcome Determination

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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 offer 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 and Roberts Courts are 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.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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