Assessing the impact of presidential and home state influences on judicial decisionmaking in the United States Courts of appeals

Donald R. Songer, Martha Humphries Ginn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Previous studies are in agreement that most appointments to the lower federal courts are the result of negotiations between the President and senators or other elites from the nominees' home state. There is also widespread agreement that the votes of lower court judges reflect, in part, the value preferences of the President who appointed them, and the state or region of their appointment. However, less is known about the relative influence of the President, the home state senators, and other home state forces on the decisions of these judges. The present study investigates these relative influences with an examination of the decisions of judges on the United States Courts of Appeals from 1960-1993. Using refined measures of the policy preferences of Presidents and senators, along with a new measure of the voting behavior of Judges on the United States Courts of Appeals, we provide an assessment of the impact of the policy preferences of Presidents, compared to those of home state senators of each party, as well as other home state forces. We find that there is a strong association between the preferences of appointing Presidents and their judges' voting behavior, regardless of the party composition of the Senate delegation from the judge's home state. The preferences of home state senators of the President's party are also significantly related to judges' votes, while opposition party senators have no impact on the behavior of judges. The preferences of other elites from the home state are related to judicial votes only when there is no home state senator from the President's party. Furthermore, there are no contextual influences from state ideology on judicial behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-328
Number of pages30
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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