Citation to legislative history: Empirical evidence on positive political and contextual theories of judicial decision making

Michael Abramowicz*, Emerson H Tiller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


We present empirical evidence suggesting that political context-judicial hierarchy and judicial panel dynamics-influences an authoring judge's use of legislative history. Specifically, we find that to the extent that political ideology matters, a district court judge's choice of legislative history is influenced, albeit modestly, by (1) the political makeup of the overseeing circuit court and (2) the political characteristics of a judge's panel colleagues, as well as by the circuit court as a whole. These factors matter more than the authoring judge's own political-ideological connection to the legislators. Put differently, an authoring judge will have a greater tendency to cite legislative history by legislators who share political party affiliation with the colleagues and superiors of the authoring judge than legislators sharing the same political party affiliation as the authoring judge himself. These findings are consistent generally with positive political and contextual theories of judicial persuasion, collegiality, and strategic decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-443
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Legal Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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