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Journal Article

A Conditional Model of Opinion Assignment on the Supreme Court

Forrest Maltzman and Paul J. Wahlbeck
Political Research Quarterly
Vol. 57, No. 4 (Dec., 2004), pp. 551-563
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah
DOI: 10.2307/3219817
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3219817
Page Count: 13
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A Conditional Model of Opinion Assignment on the Supreme Court
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Abstract

The chief justice's power to assign the majority opinion on the U.S. Supreme Court provides an indispensable agenda-setting tool for the chief. Scholars disagree, however, on what factors guide the chief's use of his assignment powers. Some suggest that the chief assigns cases with an eye to securing his ideological goals, while others contend that the chief prefers to ensure the efficient and harmonious operation of the Court. Rather than assuming that the chief is a single-minder seeker of either ideology or efficiency, we explore the possibility that the chief is motivated by multiple goals. In particular, we evaluate the effects of policy goals and organizational needs on the chief's assignment decisions, and specify the conditions under which different goals appear to be paramount to the chief. Using a random-effects probit model, we examine the assignment decisions of Chief Justices Earl Warren, Warren Burger, and William Rehnquist between the 1953 and 1990 terms, and find support for a conditional model of assignment decisions.

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