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Judicial dissent, Cohesiveness, Diversity measure, State supreme courts


Although academics have long recognized that institutions such as opinion-assignment procedures and voting order might influence the propensity to dissent, empirical studies have failed to consider the impact of collegiality and personal relationships on dissent rates. Thus, in this short Essay, I empirically test whether some of the judges’ assertions are consistent with the data. I test whether various measures of diversity are associated with dissent rates in state supreme courts. I find that diversity in many areas—gender, race, age, religion, home state, and political affiliation—is associated with higher levels of dissent. In contrast, diversity in the jobs that judges had before taking the bench is associated with lower dissent rates.

I also test whether the length of time judges have served on the court is associated with dissent rates. Presumably, judges that have served on a court together for many years would have stronger friendships than newer judges, and thus may be more collegial and less likely to dissent. However, my empirical analysis finds the opposite: the greater the number of judges with lengthy tenures on the court, the higher the dissent rate.

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Duke Law Journal Online