Strategic Judicial Preference Revelation

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We examine the revelation of preferences of justices whose true ideologies are not known when entering the Court but gradually become apparent through their judicial decisions. In a 2-period president-Senate-Court game, we show that some new justices vote disingenuously and so move the perceived ideology of the overall Court closer to their ideally preferred outcome, which influences the selection of future justices. Justices will sometimes have an incentive to exaggerate the extremeness of their preferences and at other times will seek to appear more moderate. Systematic changes in judicial behavior can be predicted on the basis of the characteristics of the cases; the initial ideologies of the justices, the president, and the Senate; and the probabilities of retirement of the justices. These results have important implications for interpreting judicial voting behavior: particularly, it is not safe to infer changes in actual judicial preferences from changes in expression of judicial preferences.

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