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The Nature of Circuit Court Gatekeeping Decisions


  • Please address correspondence to Erin B. Kaheny, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Department of Political Science, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201; e-mail:


This article provides an analysis of the nature of circuit court threshold decisions. Specifically, a model sensitive to the institutional context of the circuits is developed and tested across all threshold decisions in the sample and in more limited samples of proper party and proper forum votes. The results suggest that circuit court gatekeeping is a function of multiple factors, including circuit court law, litigant status, the lower court decision, and, at times, the ideological preferences of the circuit judge or that of his or her circuit.