One of the central controversies in the judicial behavior literature is the extent to which judges' ability to act according to their ideological preferences is affected by their location in the judicial hierarchy. Judges on intermediate appellate courts have different decisionmaking environments than high court judges. As a result, the goals of lower appellate court judges may differ from those of their superiors: the quest for legal accuracy may compete with the desire to pursue policy preferences. Analysis of the reversal rate of the U.S. circuit courts of appeals offers insight into the extent to which these judges balance the pressures of their own policy preferences with the desire to achieve the legally accurate result in cases they decide.
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