How Interpersonal Contact Affects Appellate Review

Prominent explanations for appellate review prioritize the ideological alignment of the lower and reviewing courts. We suggest that interpersonal relationships play an important role. The effect of an appellate judge's ideology on her decision to reverse depends on the level of interpersonal contact between the trial and appellate judge due to information provided by social and professional interactions. Relying on a dataset of all published Fourth Amendment search and seizure decisions from 1953-2010, we find that interpersonal relationships can dampen the effect of ideology in appellate review. When an appellate and trial court judge have frequent contact, the effect of ideology on the appellate judge's decision to reverse is essentially imperceptible. These findings speak to the importance of relationships in principal-agent arrangements generally and have implications for the structure of the federal judiciary and our understanding of the limits of ideological judicial decisionmaking.



Work Title How Interpersonal Contact Affects Appellate Review
Open Access
  1. Michael Nelson
  2. Rachael K Hinkle
  3. Morgan L.W. Hazelton
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Journal of Politics
Publication Date October 1, 2021
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited November 16, 2021




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added HHNReversalsFull.pdf
  • Added Creator Michael Nelson
  • Added Creator Rachael K Hinkle
  • Added Creator Morgan L.W. Hazelton
  • Published
  • Updated
  • Updated