Legal Constraints on Supreme Court Decision Making: Do Jurisprudential Regimes Exist?

25 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2009

See all articles by Jeffrey R. Lax

Jeffrey R. Lax

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Kelly Rader

Yale University

Date Written: August 3, 2009

Abstract

The founding debate of judicial politics - is Supreme Court decision-making driven by law or politics? - remains at center stage. One influential line of attack involves the identification of jurisprudential regimes, stable patterns of case decisions based on the influence of case factors. The key test is whether the regime changes after a major precedent-setting decision, that is, whether the case factors are subsequently treated differently by the Supreme Court justices themselves so that they vote as though constrained by precedent. We analyze whether binding jurisprudential regime change actually exists. The standard test assumes votes are independent observations, even though they are clustered by case and by term. We argue that a (non-parametric) randomization test is more appropriate. We find little evidence that precedents affect voting.

Keywords: jurisprudential regimes, precedent, stare decisis, law

JEL Classification: law and politics

Suggested Citation

Lax, Jeffrey R. and Rader, Kelly, Legal Constraints on Supreme Court Decision Making: Do Jurisprudential Regimes Exist? (August 3, 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1443332 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1443332

Jeffrey R. Lax (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

MC3320
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Kelly Rader

Yale University ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States

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