Beim, Deborah, Tom S. Clark, and Benjamin E. Lauderdale, "The Effects of Panel Assignment on the US Court of Appeals in Death Penalty Cases"
We use the random assignment of three judge panels on the US Court of Appeals to measure the preferences of individual judges for granting relief in death penalty appeals, and how they are aggregated into decisions. We provide evidence that judges on the US Court of Appeals for the 5th, 6th, 9th, and 11th Circuits apply highly inconsistent thresholds for relief from death penalty sentences. We will also examine ultimate effects of random panel assignment on whether and when appellants are executed and quantify the consequences of inconsistency in death penalty appeals.
Clark, Tom S., B. Pablo Montagnes, and Jörg L. Spenkuch, "Politics from the Bench? Ideology and Strategic Voting in the Us Supreme Court"
Supreme Court justices often vote along ideological lines. Is this due to a genuinely different interpretation of the law, or does it reflect justices' desire to re- solve politically-charged legal questions in accordance with their personal views? To study this question, we differentiate between votes that were pivotal and those that were not. We find that, when a justice's choice determines the outcome of a case, her ideology plays an even greater role in determining her decision|both relative to her choices on other cases and relative to other justices voting on the same case. The data allow us to reject theories of sincere voting as well as explanations according to which ambiguous signals about the merits of a case force justices to fall back on ideology as a form of tie breaker. Our counterfactuals suggest that "politics from the bench" determines the outcome of approximately 8% of 5-4 splits.