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Quality Over Quantity: Amici Influence & Judicial Decision Making

Abstract: 

Interest groups often make their preferences known on cases before the U.S. Supreme Court via amicus curiae briefs. In evaluating the case and related arguments, we posit that judges take into account more than just the number of supporters for the liberal and conservative positions. Specifically, judges’ decisions may also reflect the relative power of the groups. We use network position to measure interest group power in U.S. Supreme Court cases from 1946 to 2001. We find that the effect of interest group power is minimal in times of heavily advantaged cases. However, when the two sides of a case are approximately equal in the number of briefs, such power is a valuable signal to judges. We also show that justice ideology moderates the effect of liberal interest group power. The results corroborate previous findings on the influence of amicus curiae briefs and add a nuanced understanding of the conditions under which the quality and reputation of interest groups matter, not just the quantity.

Forthcoming in Volume 107, Issue 3 of The American Political Science Review.