A previous version of this article was presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. Special thanks to Jim Gibson, Greg Huber, David Mayhew, Brittany Solomon, Jim Spriggs, Jason Windett, Christopher Witko, and Patrick Wohlfarth for their helpful comments. Replication data are available at http://hdl.handle.net/1902.1/22018.
The Semiconstrained Court: Public Opinion, the Separation of Powers, and the U.S. Supreme Court's Fear of Nonimplementation
Article first published online: 8 NOV 2013
© 2013, Midwest Political Science Association
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 58, Issue 2, pages 352–366, April 2014
How to Cite
Hall, M. E.K. (2014), The Semiconstrained Court: Public Opinion, the Separation of Powers, and the U.S. Supreme Court's Fear of Nonimplementation. American Journal of Political Science, 58: 352–366. doi: 10.1111/ajps.12069
- Issue published online: 2 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 8 NOV 2013
Numerous studies have found that elite and popular preferences influence decision making on the U.S. Supreme Court; yet, uncertainty remains about when, how, and why the Court is constrained by external pressure. I argue the justices are constrained, at least in part, because they fear nonimplementation of their decisions. I test this theory by utilizing a recent study of judicial power, which finds the Court enjoys greater implementation power in “vertical” cases (those involving criminal and civil liability) than in “lateral” cases (all others; e.g., those involving schools or government agencies). I find that Court constraint is strongest in important lateral cases—those cases in which implementation depends on support from nonjudicial actors. My findings suggest that Supreme Court constraint is driven by the justices' fear of nonimplementation and is, therefore, dependent on institutional context.