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Valence and interactions in judicial voting

The collective statistics of voting on judicial courts present hints about their inner workings. Many approaches for studying these statistics, however, assume that judges’ decisions are conditionally independent: a judge reaches a decision based on the case at hand and his or her personal views. In reality, judges interact.

We develop a minimal model that accounts for judge bias, depending on the context of the case, and peer interaction.

We apply the model to voting data from the US Supreme Court. We find strong evidence that interaction is an important factor across natural courts from 1946 to 2021.

We also find that, after accounting for interaction, the recovered biases differ from highly cited ideological scores. Our method exemplifies how physics and complexity-inspired modelling can drive the development of theoretical models and improved measures for political voting.

E.D. Lee, G.T. Cantwell, Valence and interactions in judicial voting, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 3822270 (2024) 0140.

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