How do political actors use rhetoric after an initial policy battle? We explore factors that lead Supreme Court justices to integrate disagreeable rhetoric into opinions. Although disagreeable language has negative consequences, we posit that justices pay this cost for issues with high personal significance. At the same time, we argue that integrating disagreeable rhetoric has a deleterious effect on the institution by reducing majority coalition size. Examining opinions from 1946 to 2011 using text-based measures of disagreeable rhetoric, we model the language of opinion writing as well as explore the consequences for coalition size. Our findings suggest serious implications for democratic institutions and political rhetoric.

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Fall 2020

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Published in Journal of Law and Courts, v. 8, no. 2.

© 2020 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

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An online appendix with supplementary material is available at https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/suppl/10.1086/709968.

Available for download on Friday, October 01, 2021