11 August 2006

Choi and Gulati on Bias in Judicial Citations

Stephen J. Choi (NYU) and G. Mitu Gulati (Georgetown) have posted "Bias in Judicial Citations: A New Window into the Behavior of Judges?" (NYU Law School, Public Law Research Paper 06-21) on SSRN. This is the - absolutely fascinating - abstract:

Using data on citation practices in federal circuit court opinions from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 1999, this Article seeks to test for the presence of bias in citations. Our findings suggest bias along three dimensions. First, judges base outside circuit court citation decisions in part on the political party of the cited judge. Judges tend to cite judges of the opposite political party significantly less compared with the fraction of the total pool of opinions attributable to the opposite political party judges. Second, judges are more likely to engage in biased citation practices in certain high stakes situations. These high stakes situations include opinions dealing with certain subject matters (such as individual rights and campaign finance) as well as opinions in which another judge is in active opposition. Third, judges cite disproportionately more to those judges that cite back to them frequently, suggesting the presence of citation clubs. The findings of bias in citation counts suggest the possibility that the study of citation data could provide a new lens through which to view and study judicial behavior.

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