What factors influence judicial agreement versus dissensus--the choice to write a separate dissenting or concurring opinion? A number of variables may play a role: Ideology, Collegiality, Trial Court experience (of interest to Martinek's earlier post), and the high costs of dissenting due to increased workload. (See, e.g., Edwards 1998; Czarnezki/Ford forthcoming 2006; Benesh/Spaeth forthcoming; Hettinger/Lindquist/Martinek 2003). While legal factors have not been shown to play a major role, there may be consequences between using directional vote versus agreement as the dependent variable.
In a work-in-progress with Bill Ford, we examine aggregate disagreement rates on four U.S. Courts of Appeals in an attempt to explain dissensus as a product of these above variables and more. Below is a graph showing the overall dissent rates in the fours circuits since 1946. Preliminary results as to what variables correlate with these rates are pending... stay tuned for Part II of this post. (And if interested, the data will presented Sunday morning at the Law & Society conference in Baltimore for the panel "How Judges Make Decisions.")