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Strategic Judicial Preference Revelation


  • Álvaro Bustos
  • Tonja Jacobi


We examine the revelation of preferences of justices whose true ideologies are not known when entering the Court but gradually become apparent through their judicial decisions. In a 2-period president-Senate-Court game, we show that some new justices vote disingenuously and so move the perceived ideology of the overall Court closer to their ideally preferred outcome, which influences the selection of future justices. Justices will sometimes have an incentive to exaggerate the extremeness of their preferences and at other times will seek to appear more moderate. Systematic changes in judicial behavior can be predicted on the basis of the characteristics of the cases; the initial ideologies of the justices, the president, and the Senate; and the probabilities of retirement of the justices. These results have important implications for interpreting judicial voting behavior: particularly, it is not safe to infer changes in actual judicial preferences from changes in expression of judicial preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Álvaro Bustos & Tonja Jacobi, 2014. "Strategic Judicial Preference Revelation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 113-137.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/674246
    DOI: 10.1086/674246

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2002. "Speaking Up: A Model of Judicial Dissent and Discretionary Review," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0209, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics, revised Jan 2003.
    2. Bailey, Michael & Chang, Kelly H, 2001. "Comparing Presidents, Senators, and Justices: Interinstitutional Preference Estimation," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 477-506, October.
    3. Martin, Andrew D. & Quinn, Kevin M., 2002. "Dynamic Ideal Point Estimation via Markov Chain Monte Carlo for the U.S. Supreme Court, 1953–1999," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 134-153, April.
    4. Spiller, Pablo T. & Tiller, Emerson H., 1996. "Invitations to override: Congressional reversals of supreme court decisions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 503-521, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fiorino, Nadia & Gavoille, Nicolas & Padovano, Fabio, 2015. "Rewarding judicial independence: Evidence from the Italian Constitutional Court," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 56-66.
    2. Emerson H. Tiller, 2015. "The Law and Positive Political Theory of Panel Effects," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(S1), pages 35-58.
    3. Bustos, Álvaro & Jacobi, Tonja, 2015. "Communicating judicial retirement," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 107-118.
    4. Jacobi, Tonja & Kontorovich, Eugene, 2015. "Why judges always vote," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 190-199.

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    JEL classification:

    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)
    • K30 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - General
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General


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