Research Handbook on Law and Courts
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Research Handbook on Law and Courts

Edited by Susan M. Sterett and Lee D. Walker

The Research Handbook on Law and Courts provides a systematic analysis of new work on courts as governing institutions. Authors consider how courts have taken on regulating fundamental categories of inclusion and exclusion, including citizenship rights. Courts’ centrality to governance is addressed in sections on judicial processes, sub-national courts, and political accountability, all analyzed in multiple legal/political systems. Other chapters turn to analyzing the worldwide push for diversity in staffing courts. Finally, the digitization of records changes both court processes and studying courts. Authors included in the Handbook discuss theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches to studying courts as governing institutions. They also identify promising areas of future research.
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Chapter 19: Understanding the determinants of opinion language borrowing in state courts in the United States

Jennifer Bowie and Elisha Carol Savchak


Lower court judges are in the position of making meaningful contributions to the interpretation of law at higher courts, especially through their written words. Certainly, among the most important documents that high court justices consider when reviewing a case is the lower court opinion. We theorize a bottom up approach to understanding lower court influence on higher court opinion content—the bread and butter of judicial work. Specifically, we examine factors that increase the likelihood that state supreme court justices will borrow language from the intermediate appellate court opinion, hypothesizing that workload considerations, career traits, and case features influence borrowing. We test our model using plagiarism detection software and data on state supreme court and intermediate appellate court decisions in 1997, finding that case features shape a justice’s decision to borrow while career traits and workload considerations offer little explanation in the decision to adopt language from the lower court opinion.

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