Abstract: We evaluate opinion assignment and opinion authorship on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Based on the Courts of Appeals' distinct institutional setting, we derive theoretical explanations and predictions for opinion assignment on three-judge panels. Using an original dataset of sexual harassment cases, we test our predictions and find that women and more liberal judges are substantially more likely to write opinions in sexual harassment cases, making it likely that these judges have a disproportionate influence on the development of doctrine. We further find that this pattern appears to result not from purely policy-driven behavior by women and liberals assigners, but from an institutional environment in which judges seek out opinions they wish to write. Judicial opinions are the vehicles of judicial policy, and thus these results have important implications for the relationship between legal rules and opinion assignment and for the study of diversity and representation on multimember courts.
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