Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Political Science


Most of the empirical work on the decision making of justices on the Supreme Court of Canada has taken as its exclusive focus the divided decisions of the Court. In contrast to this extensive body of research on divided decision, the much more limited knowledge of unanimous decisions is troubling because such decisions constitute nearly three-quarters of all of the formal decisions of the Court. The analysis reported below provides a first step towards understanding the neglected nature of unanimous decisions. This investigation of the nature and causes of unanimity in the Supreme Court of Canada explores two competing explanations: one drawn from the most widely accepted general explanation of judicial voting (that is, the attitudinal model) and the other from the perspectives of the justices themselves. To determine that perspective, the author interviewed ten of the current or recent justices on the Court. After describing these two alternative accounts of unanimity, empirical tests are conducted of the implications of each view. We find substantially more support for the perspectives of the justices than for the perspective derived from the attitudinal model on unanimity.