Crafting the Law: How Opinion Content Influences Legal Development

Michael J. Nelson, Rachael K. Hinkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Why are some opinions widely discussed while others remain obscure? We theorize that opinions that can be understood efficiently are discussed, expanded, and contracted more frequently. Additionally, more persuasive precedents tend to be discussed and expanded more regularly, while less persuasive precedents are narrowed more often. These effects should also depend on institutional context. We compile an original dataset of 7,485 search and seizure opinions written by federal circuit and state high court judges and 567,062 judicial citations to those cases. The evidence demonstrates that efficiency, persuasiveness, and institutional context together determine how much an opinion affects legal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-122
Number of pages26
JournalJustice System Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


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