“An Informal and Limited Alliance”: The President and the Supreme Court


  • AUTHORS' NOTE: We would like to thank Andrea Pyatt, Stephanie Lindley, and Marcus Hendershot for their excellent research assistance and Fenton Martin for everything else. Professors Lawrence Baum and Pam Corley were kind enough to provide comments on a previous version. Funding for this project was provided by the University of Missouri Research Board.

Brett W. Curry is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Southern University. His research focuses on judicial politics and has appeared in American Politics Research and Political Research Quarterly.

Richard L. Pacelle, Jr., is a professor of political science at Georgia Southern University and the author of three books, including Between Law and Politics: The Solicitor General and the Structuring of Race, Gender, and Reproductive Rights Litigation (2003).

Bryan W. Marshall is an associate professor of political science at Miami University and the author of Rules for War (2005) and numerous articles on Congress, congressional-executive relations, and quantitative methods and modeling.


Presidential influence transcends some of the barriers imposed by the separation of powers to influence decision making by the Supreme Court. Specifically, we test Robert Scigliano's proposition that an informal and limited alliance exists between the president and the Court. The analysis utilizes Supreme Court decisions on civil rights and civil liberties cases from 1953 to 2000 to assess the effects of the presidency, Congress, judicial policy preferences, and legal factors on the Court. The findings demonstrate that presidential ideology influences Court decisions, while the effects of Congress are more conditional and limited. The results provide support for Scigliano's notion of an informal alliance.