Do judges follow the law when there is no fear of reversal?

Donald R. Songer, Martha H Ginn, Tammy A. Sarver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Some political scientists maintain that Supreme Court justices are more likely than other appellate court judges to vote their ideological preferences. It is argued that Supreme Court justices may vote their preferences without constraint from precedent because of a lack of electoral or political accountability, absence of ambition for higher office, and status as a member of a court of last resort that controls its own docket. While this explanation of attitudinal voting is widely accepted, it has never been tested. As a first test of the asserted institutional foundations of attitudinal voting, the voting of United States Courts of Appeals judges in tort diversity cases is examined. In such cases, appeals court judges benefit from all of the institutional features thought to advance attitudinal voting, except complete docket control. Despite these benefits, the votes of the appeals court judges appear to be highly constrained by law and precedent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-161
Number of pages25
JournalJustice System Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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