An analysis of the voting behavior of Texas Supreme Court justices, 1961-1964



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Various studies of the United States Supreme Court and of two-party state supreme courts indicate that the justices of those courts are divided into relatively stable voting blocs. This study analyzes the decisional tendencies of the justices of the Texas Supreme Court to determine if those justices are divided into two or more ideologically oriented voting blocs. The votes of Texas Supreme Court justices for cases decided during the years 1961 through 1964 comprise the data used in this research. Three indices are used to analyze the data. The Index of Interagreement measures the percentage of times each pair of justices agree, whether that agreement is indicated by majority votes or by minority votes. The Index of Cohesion measures the percentage of cases in which each pair of justices mutually dissent. The existence or non-existence of bloc voting may be ascertained by arranging the Index of Interagreement scores and the Index of Cohesion scores in a matrix so that the justices who usually vote together will be located adjacent to each other in that matrix The third index is based on probability. This technique is used to determine the voting patterns of various combinations of three and four justices that are not indicated by the previous two indices. All three indices indicate that the justices of the Texas Supreme Court are not divided into relatively stable voting blocs. Furthermore, only 29 per cent of Texas Supreme Court cases are decided non-unanimously. Since the rate of dissent is much greater in the United States Supreme Court, Texas' low rate of dissent indicates that there is considerably more agreement among the justices of the Texas Supreme Court than among the justices of the United States Supreme Court. There are several possible explanations that account for the finding that blocs do not exist among the Texas Supreme Court justices. The explanations that seem to be the most important are (1) the absence of political party competition and the influence of the governor in the process of judicial selection in Texas, (2) the high percentage of economic cases (as opposed to more controversial criminal cases and civil liberties cases) decided by the Texas Supreme Court, and (3) the use of a case classification system in this study that is designed to emphasize ideological and partisan attitudes of the judges.



Voting behavior, Texas Supreme Court justices