The “Odd Party Out” Theory of Certiorari


Bonica, Adam, Adam Chilton, and Maya Sen. Working Paper. “The “Odd Party Out” Theory of Certiorari”. Copy at
odd-party-out.pdf479 KB


How justices advance their ideological preferences is among the most well-studied aspects of the Supreme Court. In contrast, we explore how the Court may discourage ideologically motivated behavior: granting cert petitions when there is a likelihood that ideological bias influenced the lower court. We theorize that cert is more likely when there is ideological distance between the parties and the lower court panel is ideologically distant to the losing side. In these cases, the party petitioning for cert becomes the Odd Party Out, which conveys information about the possibility of lower court bias. We test the theory using a new dataset of nearly 18,000 cert petitions that incorporates advocate and judge ideology. We find strong support: Cert is more likely when the petitioner---regardless of their ideology---is the ideological Odd Party Out. This provides evidence that justices in some instances may disregard their own ideological concerns and permit the Court to intervene against ideologically driven behavior in lower courts. 

Last updated on 04/29/2022