Increased attention to judicial decisionmaking has generated increased attention to related research design questions. A recent paper by Jon Nash (Emory) and Rafael Pardo (U. Wash.), Does Ideology Matter in Bankruptcy? Voting Behavior on the Courts of Appeals, attends to both by studying circuit judges' treatment of a discrete bankruptcy issue. The paper finds that non-ideological factors informed judges' decisions. An excepted abstract follows.
"This Article empirically examines the question of whether courts of appeals judges cast ideological votes in the context of bankruptcy. The empirical study is unique insofar as it is the first to specifically examine the voting behavior of circuit court judges in bankruptcy cases. More importantly, it focuses on a particular type of dispute that arises in bankruptcy - debt-dischargeability determinations. The study implements this focused approach in order to reduce heterogeneity in result. We find, contrary to our hypotheses, that circuit court judges do not engage in ideological voting in bankruptcy cases. We do find, however, non-ideological factors - including the race of the judge and the disposition of the case by lower courts - that substantially influence the voting pattern of the judges in our study."