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The Impact of Judicial Opinion Language on the Transmission of Federal Circuit Court Precedents

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Why do some federal circuit court precedents transmit across circuits when others do not? Does judicial opinion language influence which cases are more likely to transmit? Previous research on the transmission of precedents has focused primarily on attributes of the circuits or judges who wrote the decisions, without considering whether opinion language also influences citations. This study hypothesizes that precedents are more likely to transmit to other circuits when judges communicate their importance using features of opinion language such as the legal grounding, the amount of supporting evidence, and the decision to file a per curiam opinion. The results indicate that opinion language does influence the transmission of precedents, which suggests that judges who care about policy and are willing to take affirmative steps to encourage citations can use opinion language to enhance their impact.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Fordham University

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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