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The Influence of Stare Decisis on the Votes of United States Supreme Court Justices: A Logit Model of Reliance on Partisanship or Precedent

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Abstract:

The doctrine of stare decisis, or the
principle that judicial decisions should conform to previous case law,
is central to the functioning of the U.S. legal system. Yet, despite
its importance, modern scholars of judicial decision-making often
question the frequency with which Supreme Court justices abide by the
dictates of stare decisis. Attitudinal scholarship argues that Supreme
Court justices have the ability to pursue ideologically motivated
decisions, as they are largely unconstrained with regard to both case
selection and final decisions on the merits. In their article on the
influence of stare decisis, Professors Segal and Spaeth test adherence
to precedent through an examination of a random sample of 54 landmark
cases and their progeny. According to the definition given by Segal and
Spaeth, a Supreme Court justice who dissents in a landmark case and
then reverses his position and votes with the original landmark
majority in a progeny case has conformed to stare decisis. The authors
find that the justices in the sample voted in accordance with their
preferences, rather than precedent, 90.8 percent of the time. The Segal
and Spaeth research has motivated vigorous debate within the literature
of Supreme Court decision-making. Several authors have attempted to
dispute the Segal and Spaeth findings, either through suggestions for
methodological improvements or by recoding portions of the original
case set. Such attempts have yielded highly disparate conclusions with
respect to the influence of stare decisis. This paper seeks to
reevaluate these findings by employing an improved definition of stare
decisis. Preliminary research indicates that United States Supreme
Court justices act in accordance with precedent more frequently than
earlier studies suggest, about 58.9 percent of the time. More
importantly, this paper expands previous research through the use of
logistic regression analysis to account for variations in the decision
to vote in accordance with precedent or preference. Preliminary
logistic regression suggests that increased length of tenure on the
Supreme Court renders a justice more likely to conform to the dictates
of stare decisis. The initial regression also supports the assertion
that a larger voting block in the landmark majority corresponds with an
increased probability of adherence to the landmark decision. Similarly,
initial results suggest that as the landmark precedent ages, justices
become less likely to vote in accordance with its dictates. Finally,
the preliminary logistic regression analysis indicates that the model
is effective in explaining variations in the voting decisions of U.S.
Supreme Court justices (α = .01), predicting 78.1 percent of the votes
correctly (reduction of error = 46.7 percent ).

Most Common Document Word Stems:

justic (93), vote (79), segal (68), decis (63), court (61), case (59), model (58), spaeth (51), see (50), ideolog (44), id (43), landmark (43), preced (41), suprem (39), stare (35), decisi (33), legal (32), progeni (25), major (24), judici (23), variabl (23),
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Association:
Name: The Midwest Political Science Association
URL:
http://www.indiana.edu/~mpsa/


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MLA Citation:

Merola, Linda. "The Influence of Stare Decisis on the Votes of United States Supreme Court Justices: A Logit Model of Reliance on Partisanship or Precedent" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois, Apr 15, 2004 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p83435_index.html>

APA Citation:

Merola, L. M. , 2004-04-15 "The Influence of Stare Decisis on the Votes of United States Supreme Court Justices: A Logit Model of Reliance on Partisanship or Precedent" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p83435_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: The doctrine of stare decisis, or the
principle that judicial decisions should conform to previous case law,
is central to the functioning of the U.S. legal system. Yet, despite
its importance, modern scholars of judicial decision-making often
question the frequency with which Supreme Court justices abide by the
dictates of stare decisis. Attitudinal scholarship argues that Supreme
Court justices have the ability to pursue ideologically motivated
decisions, as they are largely unconstrained with regard to both case
selection and final decisions on the merits. In their article on the
influence of stare decisis, Professors Segal and Spaeth test adherence
to precedent through an examination of a random sample of 54 landmark
cases and their progeny. According to the definition given by Segal and
Spaeth, a Supreme Court justice who dissents in a landmark case and
then reverses his position and votes with the original landmark
majority in a progeny case has conformed to stare decisis. The authors
find that the justices in the sample voted in accordance with their
preferences, rather than precedent, 90.8 percent of the time. The Segal
and Spaeth research has motivated vigorous debate within the literature
of Supreme Court decision-making. Several authors have attempted to
dispute the Segal and Spaeth findings, either through suggestions for
methodological improvements or by recoding portions of the original
case set. Such attempts have yielded highly disparate conclusions with
respect to the influence of stare decisis. This paper seeks to
reevaluate these findings by employing an improved definition of stare
decisis. Preliminary research indicates that United States Supreme
Court justices act in accordance with precedent more frequently than
earlier studies suggest, about 58.9 percent of the time. More
importantly, this paper expands previous research through the use of
logistic regression analysis to account for variations in the decision
to vote in accordance with precedent or preference. Preliminary
logistic regression suggests that increased length of tenure on the
Supreme Court renders a justice more likely to conform to the dictates
of stare decisis. The initial regression also supports the assertion
that a larger voting block in the landmark majority corresponds with an
increased probability of adherence to the landmark decision. Similarly,
initial results suggest that as the landmark precedent ages, justices
become less likely to vote in accordance with its dictates. Finally,
the preliminary logistic regression analysis indicates that the model
is effective in explaining variations in the voting decisions of U.S.
Supreme Court justices (α = .01), predicting 78.1 percent of the votes
correctly (reduction of error = 46.7 percent ).

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Abstract Only All Academic Inc.
Associated Document Available The Midwest Political Science Association
Associated Document Available Political Research Online

Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 25
Word count: 5872
Text sample:
The Influence of Stare Decisis On the Votes of United States Supreme Court Justices: A Second Look Linda M. Merola Georgetown University For Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association Chicago IL April 2004 I. Introduction The doctrine of stare decisis or the principle that judicial decisions ought to conform to previous case law remains central to the functioning of the legal system of the United States. Decisions grounded upon prior precedent provide both stability
following the landmark decision b. whether or not these new justices were assigned ideological values opposite in sign to the ideological mean of the majority opinion 4. For each new justices the vote in the progeny case is evaluated. If the justice votes against the sign of his ideological score and in favor of the holding of the landmark majority then such vote is assigned a value of prec1=1. If the justice votes in accordance with the sign of


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