We estimate the size of the U.S. Supreme Court in a world in which the political parties engage in tit-for-tat court-packing. We do so by assuming that the Supreme Court is immediately expanded by four members and that future presidents who court-pack would add enough seats to ensure that a simple majority of justices were appointed by their party. In a series of simulations, we find that median result of repeated partisan court-packing would be to increase the size of the Court to 23 justices within 50 years and to 39 justices within 100 years. We also study the incentives for justices to retire strategically in a world with repeated partisan court-packing and the resulting effects of changes in strategic retirement on the size the Court. We find that court-packing would decrease the incentives for strategic retirement, but we also find that changes in justices’ retirement decisions would have little effect on the eventual size of the Court.
How justices advance their ideological preferences is among the most well-studied aspects of the Supreme Court. In contrast, we explore how justices may discourage ideologically motivated behavior: granting cert petitions when there is a high 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 may set aside their ideological concerns and intervene against such behavior in the lower courts.
matt_blackwellHarvard Government is hiring for a tenure-track position in American Politics and/or Quantitative Methods. Please apply! I'm on the committee and am happy to answer any questions that I can. t.co/ZVzYqa6yte