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The Chief Justices and Self-Assignment of Majority Opinions: A Research Note

Elliot E. Slotnick
The Western Political Quarterly
Vol. 31, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), pp. 219-225
DOI: 10.2307/447813
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/447813
Page Count: 7
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The Chief Justices and Self-Assignment of Majority Opinions: A Research Note
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Abstract

In his exercise of the opinion assignment prerogative the Chief Justice is in a unique position to affect the formulation of judicial policy pronouncements by designating the Court's spokesman. In addition, the Chief's potential for writing "desirable" cases further augments his power. In this project we have examined the manner in which Chief Justices Taft through Burger have exercised their potential for self-assignment. The data revealed that Chief Justices pursue relatively "favorable" self-assignment policies. Such self-advantageous behavior was particularly evident in opinion assignment in a sample of "important" cases. The analysis further revealed that the self-assignment behavior of Supreme Court Chief Justices is consistent with a strategy of asserting the symbolic potential of the Chief Justiceship. The findings were supportive of the theoretical expectations for opinion assignment gleaned from earlier research.

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