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Are Justices of the US Supreme Court Islands Unto Themselves? Examining external influences on US Supreme Court rulings in securities cases

This paper examines whether the voting behavior of Supreme Court justices in 49 cases related to securities legislation since 1936, shows systematic variation in a range of measures of the personal ideological stance of the justices, a range of measures of prevailing economic conditions, and a range of measures of prevailing political conditions. We find that the voting behavior does vary significantly with respect to all three. Conservative justices are more likely to vote against shareholder rights, and in favour of business rights, than are more liberal justices. Under increasing inflation, increased real growth, a rising public debt/GDP ratio, and a weak stock market Supreme Court justices are more likely to favour business rights than shareholder rights. Finally, across a range of measures of contestation of the political space in Congress, we find a systematic statistically significant association with the voting behavior of Supreme Court justices.

Working paper 424
1 March 2014
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