Document Type


Publication Title

Law & Society Review



Publication Date



district court judges, visitors, court of appeals, labor law


Since 1980, District CourtJudges, designated pursuant to federal statute, have helped decide over 75,000 court of appeals cases-nearly one of every five merits decisions. Although scholars and judges have warned that the presence of these visitors on appellate panels may undermine consistency, legitimacy, or collegiality, little empirical evidence exists related to such concerns. Working with an especially complete data set of labor law opinions, the authors found that district court visitors perform in a much more diffident fashion than their appellate colleagues. They contribute notably fewer majority opinions and dissents. In addition, their participations do not reflect their professional or personal backgrounds to nearly the same degree as their appellate colleagues do when voting on labor law matters. The authors' findings and analyses regarding the behavior of designated district judges should be of interest to appellate courts considering the challenges of caseload management and to scholars studying processes and outcomes in the courts of appeal.