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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 at the moment of entering the Court but gradually become apparent through their judicial decisions. In the context of a two-period President-Senate-Court game — a generalization of Moraski and Shipan (1999) — we show that, while moderate new justices always vote truthfully, more extreme new justices may vote untruthfully at the beginning of their tenures. By concealing their true ideologies, new justices move the perceived ideology of the overall Court closer to their own, which in turn influences the selection of future members of the Court. New justices will sometimes have an incentive to exaggerate the extremeness of their overall preferences, and at other times they will seek to appear more moderate. The manifestation of the untruthful voting will depend on the characteristics of the cases they face, their initial ideologies and the ideologies of the President and Senate. Additionally, untruthful voting is more likely when the probabilities of retirement of the current justices are large. Finally, we assess judicial incentives to shape their perceived retirement probabilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Álvaro Bustos & Tonja Jacobi, 2010. "Strategic Judicial Preference Revelation," Documentos de Trabajo 380, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  • Handle: RePEc:ioe:doctra:380

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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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    More about this item


    Court; judicial preferences; evolution preferences; truthful vote;
    All these keywords.

    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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