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Why Do Interest Groups Engage the Judiciary? Policy Wishes and Structural Needs


  • *Direct correspondence to Rorie Spill Solberg, Department of Political Science, Gilkey Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-6206. Either author can provide the data and information on coding for anyone wishing to replicate this study. The authors are grateful for the comments and suggestions of Marie Hojnacki and Jay McAnn.


Objectives. We test two competing explanations in order to answer the question: Why do organized interests choose to engage in advocacy behavior? The first turns on the notion that concerns with policy success are the principal forces affecting a group's choice. To a lesser degree, issues of group maintenance have also been identified as entering into organized interests' decisional calculus.

Method. Using survey data supplemented with confidential interviews of organized interests, we systematically examine the power of both accounts to explain the decision of groups to locate their energies in the federal judiciary. Consequently, in the penultimate section of the article, we specify and test a comprehensive model of interest group litigation behavior.

Results. In the resulting multivariate analysis, we find that forces associated with both avenues of explanation for interest group advocacy behavior have substantial statistical purchase and empirical traction.

Conclusion. Our findings did not show a dominate role for maintenance concerns; however, clearly, a group's assessment of where, and possibly whether, to act is not an easy calculation based on the receptiveness of a venue and the available balance in the bank account. Groups must attend to their members and their competition. Explanations of group advocacy omitting such concerns are inherently flawed.