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Answering the Call of the Court

How Justices and Litigants Set the Supreme Court Agenda

Vanessa A. Baird

Publication Year: 2007

The U.S. Supreme Court is the quintessential example of a court that expanded its agenda into policy areas that were once reserved for legislatures. Yet scholars know very little about what causes attention to various policy areas to ebb and flow on the Supreme Court’s agenda. Vanessa A. Baird’s Answering the Call of the Court represents the first scholarly attempt to connect justices’ priorities, litigants’ strategies, and aggregate policy outputs of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Cover

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pp. i-vii

Contents

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pp. ix-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I must first and foremost acknowledge James L. Gibson, without whose guidance and extraordinary teaching this book would not have been written. His demands for excellence have been the greatest gift I have ever received. My heartfelt thanks goes to Mark N. Franklin, who read draft after draft tirelessly. This book would not be the same without his advice. I would also like to thank Raymond M. Duch and Donald S. Lutz for their ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-15

Throughout American history, the U.S. Supreme Court has played a major role in shaping the character of public policy. The issues that have garnered the Court’s attention, though, have changed through this time. The Court spent its first century cementing both national and judicial supremacy. Early in its second century, it had a large hand in preventing Congress from regulating the economy. After a confrontation with President Roosevelt over the New Deal, the Supreme Court then turned its ...

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1 The Supreme Court in the U.S. Legal System: Appeals and Case Selection

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pp. 17-32

The federal judicial system, the apex of which is the Supreme Court, is one of the three branches of the national government, along with the executive and legislative branches. Whereas Congress legislates and the president executes the law, the Supreme Court’s job is to be the final arbiter of what the law says. Courts are political institutions in that they often decide who gets what and how much, but they are legal institutions in that they justify their decisions with various legal rationales, rationales that are ...

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2 Explaining the Supreme Court’s Policy Cycles

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pp. 33-72

Scholars have long recognized that knowledge of the agenda-setting process is essential to a full understanding of the political power of an institution. Schattschneider (1960) calls agenda setting the “supreme instrument of power,” and Bachrach and Baratz (1962) regard the agenda-setting process as one of the “two faces of power.” The power to put an issue on the agenda—or take an issue off—is one of the most important features of institutional power.

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3 Immigrants’ Rights, Welfare, and Federalism

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pp. 73-82

On November 8, 1994, Californians voted 59 percent to 41 percent for the ballot initiative Proposition 187, a measure meant to deny all state public assistance to illegal aliens, except emergency health care. Illegal immigrants had already been denied federal benefits, and therefore, the only effect of the ballot initiative was to deny them access to education and prenatal care provided by state funds. Eight days after the proposition was passed, its constitutionality was challenged in federal court.

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4 Cyclical Patterns on the Supreme Court’s Agenda

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pp. 83-120

Earlier chapters have concentrated on how litigants use information from previous cases about Supreme Court justices’ preferences and priorities to develop their litigation strategies. This chapter now turns the focus to the aggregate patterns of Supreme Court attention to various policy areas over time. The theory is that important cases in certain policy areas will lead to increased attention by the Court to these same policy areas after some number of years. The examples in chapters 2 and 3 show that there ...

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5 Corroborative Analyses: The Political and Legal Context of the Supreme Court

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pp. 121-146

The previous chapter showed that important Supreme Court cases in certain policy areas result in an increased number of cases in those policy areas four and five years later. Without data on the number of cases that litigants decide to support, it is difficult to know whether any of those resulting cases were actually supported by political or legal entrepreneurs who were responding to what they perceived as the Court’s priorities. Furthermore, there is no data on the number of cases within certain policy ...

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6 The Impact of Moderate Justices’ Preferences on the Ideological Placement of Future Cases

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pp. 147-174

The previous chapters in this book presented evidence that when justices reveal their policy priorities through the decisions that they make, the Supreme Court’s agenda, after a delay of some years, adjusts to reflect those priorities more accurately. Sponsors of litigation evidently seek out and litigate cases that seem particularly likely to draw the attention of Supreme Court justices. In this way, justices acquire additional cases in ...

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Conclusions

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pp. 175-186

This book contributes to our understanding of the symbiotic relationship between high courts and policy entrepreneurs. It outlines a strategy that high courts can use to focus their attention on particular policy areas, thereby increasing the Supreme Court’s potential influence over those policy areas. Courts cannot set their agenda, a priori, to include a given policy area without litigation occurring in that area. Interest groups ...

Notes

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pp. 187-199

References

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pp. 201-217

Index

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pp. 219-225


E-ISBN-13: 9780813930442
E-ISBN-10: 0813930448
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813927756
Print-ISBN-10: 0813927757

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 23 figures, 13 tables
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Constitutionalism and Democracy
Series Editor Byline: Gregg Ivers and Kevin McGuire