Public Choice

, Volume 158, Issue 3–4, pp 525–539 | Cite as

Coalition formation on the U.S. Supreme Court: 1969–2009

  • Steven J. BramsEmail author
  • Gustavo Camilo
  • Alexandra D. Franz


We apply a fallback model of coalition formation to decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, focusing on the seven natural courts, which had the same members for at least two terms, between 1969 and 2009. The predictions of majority coalitions on each of the courts are generally borne out by the 5–4 decisions, whereas the predictions of the Martin-Quinn (Political Analysis 10(2):134–153, 2002) model, which assumes a single underlying dimension along which the justices can be ordered, are not. The present model also provides insight into the dynamic process by which subcoalitions build up into majority coalitions and, in addition, identifies “kingmakers” and “leaders” on the natural courts. Furthermore, it provides evidence, from coalitional memberships, that a few justices shifted over time from one ideological camp to another.


Supreme Court Coalition formation Fallback model Leader Kingmaker 



We thank three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven J. Brams
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gustavo Camilo
    • 2
  • Alexandra D. Franz
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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