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The Ebb and Flow of Issues on the Supreme Courts Agenda

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How does the Supreme Court get the issues that it needs on its agenda to make ... The Supreme Court's agenda transforms in light of the justices' priorities ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Ebb and Flow of Issues on the Supreme Courts Agenda


1
The Ebb and Flow of Issues on the Supreme Courts
Agenda
  • Vanessa A. Baird
  • University of Colorado-Boulder

2
Judicial Power in the World The worldwide
expansion of judicial power may be one of the
most important political phenomena of the 21st
century
Tate and Vallinder The Global Expansion of
Judicial Power, 1995
3
  • Conventional Explanations
  • Activist Judges
  • Ineffective Legislatures

4
More Recent Explanations Rights are more
comprehensively protected when there are groups
that support litigation
Epp, The Rights Revolution, 1998
5
Research Question How does the Supreme Court
get the issues that it needs on its agenda to
make comprehensive policy?
6
The Judicial Agenda Across Time and Area
7
  • My Explanation
  • Litigation responds systematically to indications
    of the justices policy priorities
  • The Supreme Courts agenda transforms in light of
    the justices priorities

8
The Dependent Variable Number of cases on the
Supreme Courts agenda for eleven issue areas
for each year, 1953-1995
9
  • Indications of the Supreme Courts Policy
    Priorities
  • Number of cases appearing on New York Times
    front page
  • Number of declarations of unconstitutionality
  • High rates of lower court reversals
  • Number of formal alterations of precedent

10
Theory Justices policy priorities cause an
increase in future attention to those policy areas
11
Theoretical implication Justices are dependent
on strategic and sophisticated litigation to make
comprehensive policy
12
  • Expectations
  • The impact should take a few years
  • The impact should also appear in lower courts
  • The resulting cases will be more important
  • More amicus briefs
  • More separate written opinions

13
The Effect of Justices Policy Priorities on the
Number of Cases on the Supreme Courts Agenda,
1953-1995
14
The Effect of Justices Policy Priorities on the
Number of Cases on the Appeals Courts Agendas,
1953-1988
15
The Effect of Justices Policy Priorities on the
Number of Amicus Briefs on the Supreme Court
Agenda, 1953-1986
16
The Effect of Justices Policy Priorities on the
Number of Amicus Briefs on the Appeals Courts
Agendas, 1953-1988
17
The Effect of Signals on the Number of Separate
Opinions on the Supreme Court
18
  • Conclusions from preliminary analysis
  • Judicial policy making happens in five year
    cycles
  • The Court waits four or five years before
    increasing attention to policy priorities
  • The Court depends on strategic and sophisticated
    litigants
  • The Court gets more policy relevant cases in
    those later years
  • Easier to implement preferences

19
  • Implications
  • Groups that represent minorities must be
    sophisticated enough to support well framed cases
    in response to the justices priorities.
    Otherwise, the courts will have limited
    opportunities to make comprehensive policy.
  • Two actors, courts and interest groups, who are
    unresponsive to the public help one another make
    policy.
  • Countries without groups that support litigation
    are not likely to have comprehensive rights
    protections.
  • The middle justices are advantaged.

20
  • Future work
  • Litigation in response to the Courts policy
    priorities tends to be aimed at the ideological
    middling justices. This results in more 5-4 or
    6-3 decisions in those future years.
  • Dissenting opinions that mention the
    state-federal balance of power bring about more
    cases in that issue area decided on the basis of
    federalism. Moreover, the dissenting ideological
    coalition becomes the majority coalition in the
    future. It is a strategy that works for both
    liberals and conservatives.
  • There may be other attributes of the legal
    environment, justices, or groups that interact
    that could affect the Supreme Courts agenda in a
    systematic way.
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