Determinants of Cohesion in the Supreme Court's Network of Precedents

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This study examines determinants of cohesion in the Supreme Court's reliance on precedent in the network of U.S. Supreme Court precedents. We use a database of all Supreme Court Citations and test several measures of annualized Court action as independent variables in a regression on several measures of network cohesion. We find that the magnitude of ideological decision making is consistently associated with a reduction in network cohesion, suggesting that there is indeed a conflict between legal application of precedent and ideological decisions. This effect was roughly the same, though, regardless of whether the Court was conservative or liberal. We also find significant independent effects for Chief Justice eras, with the Burger Court associated with greater cohesion and the Rehnquist Court associated with lessened cohesion.