Decision Making in State Supreme Courts

Authored by: Melinda Gann Hall

Routledge Handbook of Judicial Behavior

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138913356
eBook ISBN: 9781315691527
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter traces the evolution of the empirical scholarship on judicial decision making in state supreme courts and in doing so provides a comprehensive survey and evaluation of the field. A particular emphasis is placed on the theoretical and methodological unity in the state politics intellectual community and the close connection to fields of inquiry outside the realm of judicial politics that facilitated the early development of strategic models unifying micro-level and macro-level theories while providing compelling insights into the politics of context, especially institutional arrangements, in shaping elite behavior. These intellectual synergies also resulted in state court research avoiding the largely unproductive debate about the preeminence of attitudes/preferences versus law/precedent as principal explanations for the votes and other choices of appellate court judges. Additionally, this chapter comments on the extraordinary expansion of infrastructure in recent years for conducting state judicial politics research, starting with the State Supreme Court Data Project and moving forward to today’s innovations in data collection and measurement. These exciting developments provide unprecedented opportunities for expanding knowledge about state supreme courts and for using these institutions and the American states as comparative laboratories for testing general hypotheses of elite political behavior.

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