Interpreting circuit court voting patterns: A social interactions framework

Joshua B. Fischman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Many empirical studies have found that circuit judges' votes are significantly influenced by their panel colleagues. Although this influence is typically measured in terms of colleagues' characteristics, this article argues that it is better understood as an effect of colleagues' votes. Applying the latter interpretation, this article reanalyzes 11 prior studies of panel voting, as well as three novel data sets, and reveals the impact of colleagues' votes to be strikingly uniform. In almost every type of case, each colleague's vote increases the likelihood that a judge will vote in the same direction by roughly 40 percentage points. This result is consistent with a strong norm of consensus and can account for nearly all of the perceived impact of colleagues' party, gender, and race. This finding raises questions about strategic and deliberative models of panel voting and helps clarify measurement issues regarding the relationship between judicial characteristics and voting behavior (JEL C31, K40).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-842
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Law, Economics, and Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


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