This page contains replication datasets and do files from selected publications. Unless otherwise noted, these data are in Stata 10.0 format, compressed as Zip files. To request a different format, send an email to pmcollins"at"unt"dot"edu.
The U.S. Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing Database. With Lori A. Ringhand. 2013. Data. (Note: These data are in Excel, R, SPSS, and Stata formats).
Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change. With Lori A. Ringhand. 2012. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Data and Do Files.
Friends of the Supreme Court: Interest Groups and Judicial Decision Making. 2008. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Data and Do File. (Note: This folder contains The U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Curiae Database, 1946-2001).
The U.S. Supreme Court is a public policy battleground in which organized interests attempt to etch their economic, legal, and political preferences into law through the filing of amicus curiae ("friend of the court") briefs. In Friends of the Supreme Court: Interest Groups and Judicial Decision Making, Paul M. Collins, Jr. explores how organized interests influence the justices' decision making, including how the justices vote and whether they choose to author concurrences and dissents. Collins presents theories of judicial choice derived from disciplines as diverse as law, marketing, political science, and social psychology. This theoretically rich and empirically rigorous treatment of decision making on the nation's highest court, which represents the most comprehensive examination ever undertaken of the influence of U.S. Supreme Court amicus briefs, provides clear evidence that interest groups play a significant role in shaping the justices' choices.
On the Relationship between Public Opinion and Decision Making on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. With Bryan Calvin and Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha. 2012. Political Research Quarterly 64(4): 736-748. Data and Do File.
The authors explore whether the federal courts act as countermajoritarian institutions by investigating the influence of public mood on decision making in the U.S. Courts of Appeals from 1961 to 2002. The results indicate that public opinion affects courts of appeals decision making indirectly through judicial replacements and institutional constrains from Congress, but the authors fail to uncover evidence that courts of appeals judges respond directly to changes in public opinion. They conclude that, absent membership turnover in the circuit or in Congress, the courts of appeals are not responsive to the will of the public.
Lower Court Influence on U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Content. With Pamela C. Corley and Bryan Calvin. 2011. Journal of Politics 73(1): 31-44 Data and Do File.
Despite the importance of Supreme Court opinions for the American polity, scholars have dedicated little systematic research to investigating the factors that contribute to the content of the justices’ opinions. In this article, we examine the ability of lower federal courts to shape the content of Supreme Court opinions. We argue that lower court opinions will influence the content of the Court’s opinions to the extent that the justices perceive that integrating language from lower court opinions will aid them in making efficacious law and policy. Utilizing plagiarism detection software to compare lower federal court opinions with the majority opinions of the Supreme Court during the 2002–2004 terms, we uncover evidence that the Court systematically incorporates language from the lower federal courts into its majority opinions.
This research examines the applicability of cognitive dissonance theory to explain a judge’s decision to author or join a separate opinion. The author proposes that, when a judge casts a counterattitudinal vote, that judge will endeavor to reduce the aversive consequences of being viewed as an inconsistent decision maker by justifying his or her attitudinally incongruent vote choice to the public in a separate opinion. The author tests this possibility by examining U.S. Supreme Court justices’ decisions to author or join concurring and dissenting opinions during the 1946 to 2001 terms. The empirical results provide qualified support for the use of separate opinions as dissonance reduction mechanisms, suggesting that dissonance theory both is applicable to the actions of elite decision makers and enjoys validity outside of a laboratory setting.
The Small Group Context: Designated District Court Judges in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. With Wendy L. Martinek. 2011. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 8(1): 177-205. Data and Do File.
Decision making in the U.S. courts of appeals occurs primarily in three-judge panels. A substantial number of cases are decided by panels that include a judge who is a district court judge serving temporarily on the appeals bench. This means that court of appeals decision making is often a function of small groups with temporary members. Here, we examine whether designated district court judges behave differently than their court of appeals colleagues when they cast their votes in cases they are deciding as members of three-judge appellate panels. In doing so, we suggest a profitable direction for theory building vis-à-vis judicial decision making. Our analysis of the ideological direction of the votes judges cast, as well as the variance in those votes, indicates that judges on three-judge panels are influenced by the preferences of their fellow panelists, and that designated district court judges, while no more variable than their court of appeals colleagues, are more susceptible to the influence of their peers than are regular members of the courts of appeals in a nontrivial number of cases.
Theories of counteractive lobbying assert that interest groups lobby for the purpose of neutralizing the advocacy efforts of their opponents. We examine the applicability of counteractive lobbying to explain interest group amicus curiae participation in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the merits. Testing the counteractive lobbying hypotheses from 1953 to 2001, we provide strong support for the contention that interest groups engage in counteractive lobbying in the nation’s highest court. Our findings indicate that, like the elected branches of government, the Supreme Court is properly viewed as a battleground for public policy in which organized interests clash in their attempts to etch their policy preferences into law.
Despite the fact that scholars of judicial politics have developed reasonably well-specified models of the voting behavior of U.S. Supreme Court justices, little attention has been paid to influences on the consistency of the choices justices make. Aside from the methodological problems associated with failure to account for heteroskedasticity with regard to the justices’ voting behavior, I argue that variance in judicial choice is also of theoretical import. Simply put, by uncovering influences on the stability of judicial choice, a more complete understanding of judicial decision making is provided. I explore this possibility by developing a theoretical framework that identifies influences on the consistency of judicial choice, which are then subjected to empirical testing. I show that the stability of judicial decision making is affected by attitudinal and strategic factors, as well as the Court’s informational environment. The result is a more fully integrated model of Supreme Court decision making.
The Solicitor General’s Amicus Curiae Strategies in the Supreme Court. With Chris Nicholson. 2008. American Politics Research 36(3): 382-415. Data and Do File.
Scholars have devoted a great deal of research to investigating the role and influence of the U.S. solicitor general (SG) as amicus curiae in the Supreme Court. Yet, we know little about the SG’s decision to file an amicus brief and how this relates to the SG’s success on the merits. We fill this void by examining legal, political, and administrative factors that affect the SG’s decision to participate as amicus curiae. We subject our hypotheses to empirical testing using data on the 1953 to 1999 Supreme Court terms by linking the SG’s decision to file an amicus brief to the SG’s ultimate success on the merits, employing a Heckman-style selection model. We find that the SG’s decision to file an amicus brief is influenced by legal, political, and administrative considerations, suggesting that the SG is best viewed through the incorporation of a variety of theoretical perspectives.
Amici Curiae and Dissensus on the U.S. Supreme Court. 2008. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 5(1): 143-170. Data and Do File.
A great deal of empirical research has focused on explaining why U.S. Supreme Court Justices partake in nonconsensual opinion writing. However, little attention has been paid to the role of organized interests in contributing to a Justice’s decision to write or join a separate opinion. I argue that a Justice’s decision to engage in this behavior is a partial function of interest group amicus curiae participation in the Court. By providing the Justices with a myriad of information regarding how cases should be resolved, organized interests create ambiguity in the Justices’ already uncertain decision making, at the same time providing them with a substantial foundation for concurring or dissenting opinions. I subject this argument to empirical validation by examining the Justices’ decisions to author or join regular concurring, special concurring, and dissenting opinions during the 1946–1995 terms. The results indicate that organized interests play a considerable role in increasing dissensus on the Supreme Court.
Transforming the United States Courts of Appeals Data Bases in Stata. 2008. Law & Courts 18(1): 19-22. Data and Do File.
Scholars studying the U.S. Courts of Appeals overwhelmingly employ one of two publicly available datasets (Kuersten and Haire 2007; Songer 2007). While these data bases contain a treasure trove of information, they are organized such that the unit of analysis is the case, which makes some research questions more easily tackled than others. This article provides easily implemented Stata codes to reliably transform the unit of analysis in these datasets from the case to the judge-vote, thus allowing scholars to investigate Court of Appeals decision making at the level of the individual judge.
Towards an Integrated Model of the U.S. Supreme Court's Federalism Decision Making. 2007. Publius: The Journal of Federalism 37(4): 505-531. Data and Do File.
Disputes involving the boundaries of state versus federal power make up a substantial portion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket and have undergone extensive analysis. Yet, the conventional wisdom regarding the justices’ choices in these cases is that they are highly inconsistent. I argue that this is primarily a function of the failure of scholars to develop a comprehensive model of the justices’ federalism decision making. To remedy this, I introduce an integrated model of the individual justices’ choices in these cases, which is then subjected to empirical testing in the Rehnquist Court era (1986-2004). I explore a host of determinants of the justices’ decision making, including attitudinal, institutional, legal, and personal attributes, as well as the role of organized interests in the Court. The findings reveal that the choices justices make in these cases are not as discordant as most commentators suggest. Rather, they are relatively predictable through the application of an integrated model of judicial choice.
Lobbyists before the U.S. Supreme Court: Investigating the Influence of Amicus Curiae Briefs. 2007. Political Research Quarterly 60(1): 55-70. Data and Do File.
Despite the fact that amicus curiae participation is the most common method of interest group activity in the judicial arena, there is little consensus as to whether this means of participation influences the decision making of the U.S. Supreme Court. To redress this state of affairs, this research investigates the affect of amicus briefs on the ideological direction of the Court’s decisions, with particular attention given to theoretical and methodological issues that have gone unexplored in previous studies. Analyzing group influence during the 1946 to 1995 terms, the results provide particularly robust evidence that pressure groups are effective in shaping the Court’s policy outputs. These findings therefore indicate that elite decision makers can be influenced by persuasive argumentation presented by organized interests.
Transforming the Original U.S. Supreme Court Judicial Database: An Alternative Approach for use with Stata. 2006. Law & Courts 16(1): 22-24. Data and Do File
One of the most commonly employed datasets on the U.S. Supreme Court is ALLCOURT, the Original United States Supreme Court Judicial Database. Yet, the structure of ALLCOURT is set up such that the case is the unit of analysis, which makes certain types of research questions more easily broached than others. This article provides an easily implemented code for Stata that allows users to reliably transform the unit of analysis in ALLCOURT from the case to the justice-vote.
Friends of the Court: Examining the Influence of Amicus Curiae Participation in U.S. Supreme Court Litigation. 2004. Law & Society Review 38(4): 807-32. Data and Do File
Amicus curiae participation is a staple of interest group activity in the U.S. Supreme Court. While a reasonably large body of scholarship has accumulated regarding the effectiveness of this method of participation, little attention has been paid to examining the reasons why amicus participation might increase litigation success. In this article I test two separate, but not mutually exclusive, theories as to why amicus briefs may be effective. The first, the affected groups hypothesis, suggests amicus briefs are influential because they signal to the Court how many groups and individuals will be potentially affected by the decision. The second, the information hypothesis, proposes that amicus briefs are effective because they provide the Court with added information that buttresses the arguments of the direct parties. When subjected to empirical verification the results indicate that, not only does amicus participation increase litigation success, but also that this influence may be best explained by the information hypothesis.