Executive Discretion, Judicial Decision Making, and Separation of Powers in the United States
32 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2008
Date Written: July 24, 2008
Existing work on the U.S. separation of powers typically views the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional and statutory disputes. By contrast, much comparative work on institutional politics explicitly recognizes the role of executives in enforcing and implementing court decisions. Drawing on that work, this study relaxes the assumption that executives must comply with Supreme Court rulings, and instead allows the propensity for executive compliance to depend upon indirect enforcement by the public. We develop and analyze a simple spatial model of Supreme Court decision making in the presence of executive discretion over compliance with the Court's rulings, and demonstrate that such discretion can act to restrict substantially the Court's decision making. Relying upon data collected for the Warren and Burger courts, we find empirical evidence consistent with the argument that the Supreme Court's ability to constrain executive discretion depends critically upon the public being aware of and understanding the ramifications of the case at hand.
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