Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A supreme discretion and a passivity conundrum: Strategic agenda-setting on the US Supreme Court
by Sommer, Ehud Natan, Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2007, 202; 3328053
Abstract (Summary)

Given contradictory accounts concerning the extent to which the US Supreme Court may act as a proactive player in the American political arena, in this treatise I set to explore the implications of the Court's gate keeping prerogative for this conundrum. Following the institutional reforms beginning with the Judiciary Act of 1891 and culminating in the Act of 1925 the Court's docket was considerably reshaped. The intent of those reforms was to allow the Court instead of legally correcting erroneous decisions rendered by lower courts, to deal with broader issues. This was so because the Court was now able to exert much greater discretion. In addition, the number of reviewed cases shrank over time. With fewer vehicles available to articulate legal answers to far-reaching political, economic and social questions, the value of each opinion rose. The discretion it exercised over its own agenda, I argue, combined with the particular significance of opinions, yielded an institutional structure potentially conducive to a Court which is tactic and ergo proactive. A vigorous Court that selects cases based on their policy consequences as well as on their doctrinal and jurisprudential ramifications. Data are taken from the Supreme Court Database, and from original material from justices' private papers in the Library of Congress. I study the behavior of justices in the Vinson, Warren and Burger Courts. Several methodologies are used, including macro-level analyses combined with logistic regression on the micro level, in addition to Generalized Nonlinear Measurement Error Models. I demonstrate that given a litigation market in which entrepreneurs bring to the Court the major and burning issues of the day combined with justices' ability to strategically populate their plenary docket with cases that fit their political and doctrinal preferences, the Court is a rather active institution. An institution that, as Frankfurter and Landis (1927) state, exercises powers unmatched in any other system.

Indexing (document details)
School: State University of New York at Stony Brook
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 69/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Law, Political science
Keywords: Agenda-setting, Certiorari, Constitution, Judicial behavior, Strategic judicial behavior, Supreme Court, US Supreme Court, United States
Publication Number: 3328053
ISBN: 978-0-549-80772-8
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