Legal academics and political scientists continue to debate whether the legal, attitudinal, or strategic model best explains judicial decision making. One limitation in this debate is the high-court bias found in most studies. This article, by contrast, examines federal district court decisions, specifically interpretations of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Initial interpretations of the Act articulated distinct liberal and conservative positions. The data compiled here support the hypothesis that the later emergence of an intermediate interpretation was the result of strategic statutory interpretation rather than simply judges acting consistently with their ideological preferences, although there is some evidence that judges adopting the most conservative interpretation of the Act were acting consistently with the attitudinal model. There is weaker evidence to support the legal model, an unsurprising result given the severe test the study design creates for that model.
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