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Supreme Court consensus and dissent: Estimating the role of the selection screen


  • Brian Goff



From 1940 to the present, the on-the-record consensus among Supreme Court justices fell precipitously relative to historical benchmarks. This paper first shows that Court consensus is closely associated with measures of consistency and stability of Court rulings. Then, an empirical model of Supreme Court consensus and dissension is estimated over 1800–2001 in which characteristics of the presidential-senatorial screen are key variables. Using OLS and controlling for several other influences, the results show that variations in consensus are linked to two components of the selection screen – the party of the confirming Senate and split party nominations and confirmations. Other than the selection screen, the size of the federal judiciary and consensus norms in the recent past are important influences. These results are also confirmed using GARCH and regime-shifting econometric methods. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Suggested Citation

  • Brian Goff, 2005. "Supreme Court consensus and dissent: Estimating the role of the selection screen," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(3), pages 483-499, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:122:y:2005:i:3:p:483-499
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-005-7517-y

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nelson, Daniel B, 1991. "Conditional Heteroskedasticity in Asset Returns: A New Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 347-370, March.
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    5. Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1975. "The Independent Judiciary in an Interest-Group Perspective," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 875-901, December.
    6. Toma, Eugenia Froedge, 1991. "Congressional Influence and the Supreme Court: The Budget as a Signaling Device," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 131-146, January.
    7. Spiller, Pablo T & Spitzer, Matthew L, 1992. "Judicial Choice of Legal Doctrines," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 8-46, March.
    8. Ferejohn, John A. & Weingast, Barry R., 1992. "A positive theory of statutory interpretation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 263-279, June.
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