Bargaining and Legal Development on the United States Courts of Appeals

Ryan C. Black and Ryan J. Owens

Published 2013, American Politics Research 41(6): 1071-1101 (November).


Examining the systematic and private records of a former D.C. Circuit Court Judge, we examine the process by which federal circuit court judges craft legal opinions. We discover that private and contextual factors influence legal outcomes. More specifically, we find that workload considerations strongly influence circuit opinions, that some visiting and senior judges effect the process differently than do active circuit court judges, and that panel effects play but a minimal role in the creation of opinions. In short, we move the literature on circuit court decision making forward by employing private archival material that illuminates how private and contextual features influence opinion writing and legal policy.

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