Judicial Independence and Opinion Clarity on State Supreme Courts

State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 14(2): 123-141 (2014)

31 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2013 Last revised: 30 Aug 2017

See all articles by Greg Goelzhauser

Greg Goelzhauser

Utah State University - Department of Political Science

Damon M. Cann

Utah State University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 23, 2013

Abstract

We contribute to the literature on judicial independence and performance in the states by analyzing opinion clarity. Written opinions are the primary means of communication for state supreme court justices, and clarity is a core component of judicial performance. Using automated text analysis on a sample of state supreme court opinions from all fifty states, we find that variation in judicial retention systems is not associated with substantively meaningful differences in opinion clarity. Furthermore, elected judges do not seem to produce clearer opinions in salient cases notwithstanding the increased public visibility of those decisions. These results suggest that judges tend to conform to prevailing professional norms despite differing institutional constraints.

Keywords: judicial elections, judicial performance, opinion quality, text analysis

Suggested Citation

Goelzhauser, Greg and Cann, Damon M., Judicial Independence and Opinion Clarity on State Supreme Courts (March 23, 2013). State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 14(2): 123-141 (2014), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2238397 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2238397

Greg Goelzhauser (Contact Author)

Utah State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

0725 University Blvd.
Logan, UT 84322-0725
United States

Damon M. Cann

Utah State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

0725 University Blvd.
Logan, UT 84322-0725
United States

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