The Impact of Supreme Court Signals and Circuit Effects on Responses to Precedent

36 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2014 Last revised: 21 Apr 2014

See all articles by Ali Masood

Ali Masood

University of South Carolina

Benjamin Kassow

University of South Carolina

Donald R. Songer

University of South Carolina

Date Written: April 6, 2013

Abstract

An extensive literature suggests that U.S. Supreme court justices are policy entrepreneurs who are strongly concerned with the impact of their decisions. Such a concern for the policy impact of their decisions raises a number of puzzles: 1) under what conditions do Court precedents have the broadest impact on the lower courts? 2) What motivates the circuits to respond differently to Supreme Court precedent? 3) What, if any, strategies does the Court employ to influence the responses of the courts below? These queries require scholars to examine the aggregate impact of the decisions of the Court. We provide a framework for aggregate lower court responses to Court precedent. We argue that given the finite ability of the Supreme Court to review the large number of lower court decisions, justices of the Court should primarily be interested in aggregate patterns of compliance. We posit that a signal by the Supreme Court in the form of its summary decisions and a number of circuit-level influences primarily drive lower court responses to Court precedent. The empirical results provide robust support for our account.

Keywords: Judicial Impact, Judicial Hierarchy, Judicial Decision-Making, U.S. Courts of Appeals, U.S. Supreme Court

Suggested Citation

Masood, Ali and Kassow, Benjamin and Songer, Donald R., The Impact of Supreme Court Signals and Circuit Effects on Responses to Precedent (April 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2421773 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2421773

Ali Masood (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Benjamin Kassow

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Donald R. Songer

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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