The Journal of Politics

ARTICLES

A Theory of Opinion Writing in a Political Hierarchy

Tom S. Clarka1 and Clifford J. Carrubbaa2

a1 Emory University

a2 Emory University

Abstract

We develop a model of opinion writing in the judicial hierarchy. The model adopts a case-space approach to judicial decision making with informational asymmetries across levels of the hierarchy. In the model, a lower court writes an opinion with two features: a legal rule and a level of quality. An upper court must then decide whether to review the decision. The model yields new insights about the strategic incentives created by the judicial hierarchy, including relationships among judicial ideology and opinion quality, judicial quality and the content of an opinion’s rule, and the effect of the case facts on these relationships. The findings suggest that several common tests employed in the literature may not discriminate among competing sets of first principles.

(Online publication March 30 2012)

Tom S. Clark is Associate Professor of Political Science, at Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.

Clifford J. Carrubba is Associate Professor of Political Science, at Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.

Metrics