How Do Justices Make Decisions? Models of Court Decision Making: Legal Model –Judges make decisions…

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How Do Justices Make Decisions?Models of Court Decision Making:

Legal ModelJudges make decisions based on stare decisis (precedent)Attitudinal ModelJudges make decisions based on their own policy preferencesRational Choice ModelJudges are utility maximizers

Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari to a very small number of cases every yearRule of FourInterest Groups and other political actors file amicus curae briefs with the CourtTry to influence decision to grant cert (or not grant cert)Also try to influence the decision

Legal Model

Consistent with judicial restraintJudges behave (grant certiorari, make decisions, etc.) based on legal precedentStrict adherence to letter of the lawJudges do not impose their own personal policy preferences

Attitudinal Model

Consistent with judicial activismJeffrey Segal and Harold SpaethJudges behave based on their own personal policy preferences or ideologyWhen making a decision, judges are making comparisons between previous court decision under review and their own preferences

Attitudinal Model

Decisions consistent with attitudinal model Voting patterns consistent with policy preferences of justicesOther political actors believe that judges behave attitudinallyPresident appoints like-minded justicesSenate more likely to reject nomineesSupreme Court following public opinionReplacement Theory

Rational Choice Models

Judges act strategically in order to get preferred outcomesChanging vote from original conference vote to final voteVoting against policy preferences in order to get reelected (if elected judge)Granting certiorari to cases so that the court will uphold preferred decisions

Landmark Court Cases

Marbury v. Madison (1803)McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)Dredd Scott v. Sanford (1857)Plessey v. Ferguson (1896)Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)Roe v. Wade (1973)