American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Tom Clark, “Who Controls Opinion Content?”

Event time: 
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 4:00pm through 5:15pm
Event description: 

Title: ““Who Controls Opinion Content? Testing Theories of Authorship using Case-Specific Preference Estimates for the U.S. Supreme Court”

Guest Speaker: Tom Clark, Political Science, Emory University

Abstract: Recent research has demonstrated that the preferences of US Supreme Court justices are not simply unidimensional. We demonstrate a new approach to Bayesian preference estimation that estimates case-specific preferences for justices, using a conditional autoregressive model with legal similarity determining the correlation between justices’ preferences across cases. We employ the overlap in legal topics addressed in each case to identify the most relevant precedent cases to describe variation in revealed preferences across areas of the law. In applications that test theories of bargaining on the Court, these estimates enable stronger identification of variation in preferences while holding the composition of the Court constant. We show that Chief Justices from 1946 to 2005 strategically assign authorship to their colleagues in cases where those colleagues are more closely in agreement with the Chief Justice, and patterns of other justices joining those opinions are consistent with the idea that authors shape the content of opinions.

Bio: Tom Clark is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science at Emory University. His research concerns judicial institutional design, the statistical analysis of judicial decision-making, information in the judicial hierarchy, and the separation of powers. His research combines formal-theoretic analysis of judicial institutions with quantitative and qualitative empirical analysis of judicial behavior. He received his PhD in Politics from Princeton University and his BA in Political Science from Rutgers University.

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