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Case Selection and the Study of Judicial Politics

49 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2006 Last revised: 22 Oct 2007

Jonathan P. Kastellec

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Jeffrey R. Lax

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 22, 2007

Abstract

One complication in studying the Supreme Court and the judicial hierarchy is that the Court's docket is now nearly completely discretionary. Although the justices' strategies in picking cases affect the observations we can make and the inferences we draw, this is rarely taken into account in studies of judicial politics. In this paper, we study how case selection can affect our inferences within judicial politics, including those about decision making in the Supreme Court itself (such as whether law constrains the justices) and throughout the judicial hierarchy (such as whether lower courts comply with Supreme Court doctrine). We use Fourth Amendment case data to show that the inferential problems raised by the Court's case selection range from moderate to severe. At stake are substantive conclusions within some of the most important and controversial debates in judicial politics.

Keywords: Supreme Court, certiorari, case selection, judicial hierarchy, simulation analysis

Suggested Citation

Kastellec, Jonathan P. and Lax, Jeffrey R., Case Selection and the Study of Judicial Politics (October 22, 2007). 2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=951873 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.951873

Jonathan P. Kastellec

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

Jeffrey R. Lax (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

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

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