PEER REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS

For abstract, hover on image. For paper, click image. 

Majority opinions are the most important output of the U.S. Supreme Court, not only disposing the instant case but also providing guidance for other institutions, lower courts, and litigants as to the state of the law. The authoring of dissenting opinions, though, is frequently regarded as deleterious to the Court's institutional legitimacy and the efficacy of the majority opinion. Leveraging the content of all Court opinions between 1979 and 2009, I argue dissenting justices use dissenting opinions to strategically alter the issue dimensions addressed in the majority opinion. An examination of the effect of separate opinion content on majority opinions indicates dissenting opinions yield majority opinions addressing a greater number of topics, and I provide evidence the dynamic is driven by the strategic behavior of dissenting justices seeking to realign the Court.

Majority opinions are the most important output of the U.S. Supreme Court, not only disposing the instant case but also providing guidance for other institutions, lower courts, and litigants as to the state of the law. The authoring of dissenting opinions, though, is frequently regarded as deleterious to the Court's institutional legitimacy and the efficacy of the majority opinion. Leveraging the content of all Court opinions between 1979 and 2009, I argue dissenting justices use dissenting opinions to strategically alter the issue dimensions addressed in the majority opinion. An examination of the effect of separate opinion content on majority opinions indicates dissenting opinions yield majority opinions addressing a greater number of topics, and I provide evidence the dynamic is driven by the strategic behavior of dissenting justices seeking to realign the Court.

Rice, Douglas. 2016. "Issue Divisions and U.S. Supreme Court Decision Making." Journal of Politics (forthcoming).


We examine a problem that is confronted frequently by political science researchers seeking to model longitudinal data: what to do when one suspects a lag between the realization of a regressor and its effect on the outcome variable, but one has no theoretical reason to suspect a particular lag length. We examine the theoretical challenges posed by atheoretic lags, review existing methods for atheoretic lag analysis - most notably distributed lag specifications - and their shortcomings, and present an alternative approach for atheoretic lag analysis based on Bayesian model averaging (BMA). We demonstrate the use and utility of our approach with two examples: the litigant signal model in American politics and modernization theory in political economy. Our examples show the increasing difficulty of analyzing models with atheoretic lags as the set of possible specifications increases, and demonstrate the effectiveness of Bayesian model averaging for the modal type of specification in time-series cross-sectional applications.

We examine a problem that is confronted frequently by political science researchers seeking to model longitudinal data: what to do when one suspects a lag between the realization of a regressor and its effect on the outcome variable, but one has no theoretical reason to suspect a particular lag length. We examine the theoretical challenges posed by atheoretic lags, review existing methods for atheoretic lag analysis - most notably distributed lag specifications - and their shortcomings, and present an alternative approach for atheoretic lag analysis based on Bayesian model averaging (BMA). We demonstrate the use and utility of our approach with two examples: the litigant signal model in American politics and modernization theory in political economy. Our examples show the increasing difficulty of analyzing models with atheoretic lags as the set of possible specifications increases, and demonstrate the effectiveness of Bayesian model averaging for the modal type of specification in time-series cross-sectional applications.

Cranmer, Skyler, Douglas Rice and Randolph Siverson. 2016. "What to do about Atheoretic Lags." Political Science Research & Methods.


Rice, Douglas and Christopher Zorn. 2016. "Troll-in-Chief? Affective Opinion Content and the Influence of the Chief Justice." In David Danelski & Artemus Ward, eds. The Chief Justice: Appointment and Influence. University of Michigan Press.


While Supreme Court cases are generally salient or important, some are many degrees more important than others. A wide range of theoretical and empirical work throughout the study of judicial politics implicates this varying salience. Some work considers salience a variable to be explained, perhaps with judicial behavior the explanatory factor. The currently dominant measure of salience is the existence of newspaper coverage of a decision, but decisions themselves are an act of judicial politics. Because this coverage measure is effected only after a decision is announced, using it limits the types of inferences we can draw about salience. We develop a measure of latent salience, one that builds on existing work, but which also explicitly incorporates and models pre-decision information. This measure has the potential to ameliorate concerns of causal inference, put research findings on sounder footing, and add to our understanding of judicial behavior.

While Supreme Court cases are generally salient or important, some are many degrees more important than others. A wide range of theoretical and empirical work throughout the study of judicial politics implicates this varying salience. Some work considers salience a variable to be explained, perhaps with judicial behavior the explanatory factor. The currently dominant measure of salience is the existence of newspaper coverage of a decision, but decisions themselves are an act of judicial politics. Because this coverage measure is effected only after a decision is announced, using it limits the types of inferences we can draw about salience. We develop a measure of latent salience, one that builds on existing work, but which also explicitly incorporates and models pre-decision information. This measure has the potential to ameliorate concerns of causal inference, put research findings on sounder footing, and add to our understanding of judicial behavior.

Clark, Tom, Jeffrey Lax and Douglas Rice. 2015. "Measuring the Political Salience of Supreme Court Cases." The Journal of Law and Courts 3(1):36-65.


Scholars studying judicial behavior have identified a host of factors theoretically and empirically connected to judicial decision making. One recent theory identifies economic conditions – which have implications for the decisions of voters and politicians – as influencing the voting behavior of U.S. Supreme Court justices. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court is a unique judicial institution addressing limited – though indisputably important – economic cases every year. State courts, on the other hand, address a multitude of issues every year with economic ramifications. Building on the rich body of literature examining state courts of last resort, I analyze whether judges, across a variety of methods for judicial selection and retention, respond to temporary changes in the state of the economy. Results indicate that the responses of state supreme court judges to changes in the state of the economy are conditional on the electoral vulnerability of the justice. This research thus offers considerable insight into judicial behavior under different selection mechanisms, and the conditional influence of the state of the economy.

Scholars studying judicial behavior have identified a host of factors theoretically and empirically connected to judicial decision making. One recent theory identifies economic conditions – which have implications for the decisions of voters and politicians – as influencing the voting behavior of U.S. Supreme Court justices. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court is a unique judicial institution addressing limited – though indisputably important – economic cases every year. State courts, on the other hand, address a multitude of issues every year with economic ramifications. Building on the rich body
of literature examining state courts of last resort, I analyze whether judges, across a variety of methods for judicial selection and retention, respond to temporary changes in the state of the economy. Results indicate that the responses of state supreme court judges to changes in the state of the economy are conditional on the electoral vulnerability of the justice. This research thus offers considerable insight into judicial behavior under different selection mechanisms, and the conditional influence of the state of the economy.

Rice, Douglas.  2014. "On Courts and Pocketbooks: Macroeconomic Judicial Behavior Across Methods of Judicial Selection." The Journal of Law and Courts 2(2):327-347. 


When the Supreme Court takes action, it establishes national policy within an issue area. A traditional, legal view holds that the decisions of the Court settle questions of law and thereby close the door on future litigation, reducing the need for future attention to that issue. Alternatively, an emerging interest group perspective suggests the Court, in deciding cases, provides signals which encourage additional attention to particular issues. I examine these competing perspectives of what happens in the federal courts after Supreme Court decisions. My results indicate that while Supreme Court decisions generally settle areas of law in terms of overall litigation rates, they also introduce new information which leads to increases in the attention of judges and interest groups to those particular issues.

When the Supreme Court takes action, it establishes national policy within an issue area. A traditional, legal view holds that the decisions of the Court settle questions of law and thereby close the door on future litigation, reducing the need for future attention to that issue. Alternatively, an emerging interest group perspective suggests the Court, in deciding cases, provides signals which encourage additional attention to particular issues. I examine these competing perspectives of what happens in the federal courts after Supreme Court decisions. My results indicate that while Supreme Court decisions generally settle areas of law in terms of overall litigation rates, they also introduce new information which leads to increases in the attention of judges and interest groups to those particular issues.

Rice, Douglas. 2014. "The Impact of Supreme Court Activity on the Judicial Agenda." Law & Society Review 48(1):63-90. 

  • Winner, American Political Science Association's Law and Court's Section's Best Graduate Student Paper Award, 2010-2011.
  • Second Place, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research's Graduate Student Paper Award, 2010-2011.
  • Presented at the 2010 Conference on Empirical Legal Studies, November 6, 2010.
  • Presented at the 2010 Midwest Political Science Association Conference, April 23, 2010.

 

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Clark, Tom, Jeffrey Lax and Douglas Rice. 2014. "Measuring Salience as a Latent Variable." Law and Courts: The Newsletter of the Law and Courts Section 24(2):8-10.


UNDER REVIEW

Rice, Douglas. "Measuring the Issue Content of Supreme Court Opinions through Probabilistic Topic Models." 

  • Winner, American Political Science Association's Law and Court's Section's Best Graduate Student Paper Award, 2012-2013.
  • Poster presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society for Political Methodology, UNC, July 20, 2012.
  • Presented at New Faces in Political Methodology, Penn State University, April 28, 2012.
  • Presented at the 2012 Midwest Political Science Association Conference, April 13, 2012.

Rice, Douglas. "Placing the Ball in Congress’ Court: Congressional Responses to Supreme Court Requests."

  • Presented at the 2014 Southern Political Science Association Conference, January 16, 2015.

 

IN PREPARATION

Caldeira, Greg, Douglas Rice, Charles Smith and Christopher Zorn. "The Ideological Content of Reversals and Affirmances Revisited"

  • Presented at the 2016 American Political Science Association Conference, September 1, 2016. 

Dowling, Conor and Douglas Rice. "Campaigning from the Bench: New-style Judicial Campaigns and Opinion Content."

  • Presented at the 2016 Midwest Political Science Association Conference, April 7, 2016. 

Rice, Douglas and Christopher Zorn. "Corpus-based Dictionaries for Sentiment Analysis of Specialized Vocabularies." [PDF]

  • Presented at the 2014 Midwest Political Science Association Conference, April 6, 2014.  

Rice, Douglas and Christopher Zorn. "The Evolution of Consensus in the U.S. Supreme Court." [PDF]

  • Presented at the 2014 Southern Political Science Association Conference, January 8, 2014.
  • Presented at the 2013 Midwest Political Science Association Conference, April 11, 2013.

 

BOOK MANUSCRIPT

"Agenda Dynamics in the Federal Courts" (under review).

     Whether courts set the agenda or simply react to policy attention in other institutions is a question unresolved by social scientists and legal scholars, and one with important implications for policymakers. For example, by using the courts, do interest groups garner attention for their preferred policies? Through litigation, do citizens gain the attention of government? These and other questions are part of a larger puzzle: what part do federal courts play in the policy process? On this, two separate perspectives have emerged. In the first view, the courts are passive implementers of policy, with attention in the courts following attention in other institutions. Contrary to this perspective, an emerging literature suggests the courts can be used by litigants and interest groups to proactively shift issue attention across multiple policymaking institutions. To address these questions, this research offers the first comprehensive, long-term study of issue attention across the federal judiciary. I employ automated text analysis and machine learning methods to measure the activity of litigants, judges, and interest groups in the courts. With this information, I determine patterns of issue attention within the judicial hierarchy and then, beyond the judiciary, I test competing theories of how Congress and the executive branch impact, or are impacted by, the issue attention of actors within the legal system. In doing so, my project offers a unique contribution to studies of the hierarchical relationships of federal courts as well as the role of courts in the policy process.