Dr. Meghan Leonard presented her research “Who Writes?: Opinion Assignment on State Supreme Courts” at a Department of Politics and Government brown bag event on Friday, March 26. Her research examined who is assigned the majority opinion on state supreme courts.
Leonard and her co-author ask which justice is assigned the majority opinion in cases in the 14 states that allow for the chief justice or most senior justice on the court to assign the opinion. They examine the role of ideology, gender, race, and judge tenure on the court. They find that when the most senior justice assigns the opinion, they rely on authors who are likely to maintain the majority coalition, rather than authors who will carry out their ideological goals. Leonard also finds evidence that race and gender play a role in opinion assignment, where women are more likely to be assigned opinions in environmental law cases and Black justices less likely to be assigned opinions in employment discrimination cases.