The Politics of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court / Edition 1

The Politics of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court / Edition 1

by Thomas G. Hansford, James F. Spriggs
     
 

The Politics of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court offers an insightful and provocative analysis of the Supreme Court's most important task--shaping the law. Thomas Hansford and James Spriggs analyze a key aspect of legal change: the Court's interpretation or treatment of the precedents it has set in the past. Court decisions do not just resolve

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Overview

The Politics of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court offers an insightful and provocative analysis of the Supreme Court's most important task--shaping the law. Thomas Hansford and James Spriggs analyze a key aspect of legal change: the Court's interpretation or treatment of the precedents it has set in the past. Court decisions do not just resolve immediate disputes; they also set broader precedent. The meaning and scope of a precedent, however, can change significantly as the Court revisits it in future cases. The authors contend that these interpretations are driven by an interaction between policy goals and variations in the legal authoritativeness of precedent. From this premise, they build an explanation of the legal interpretation of precedent that yields novel predictions about the nature and timing of legal change.

Hansford and Spriggs test their hypotheses by examining how the Court has interpreted the precedents it set between 1946 and 1999. This analysis provides compelling support for their argument, and demonstrates that the justices' ideological goals and the role of precedent are inextricably linked. The two prevailing, yet contradictory, views of precedent--that it acts either solely as a constraint, or as a "cloak" that never actually influences the Court--are incorrect. This book shows that while precedent can operate as a constraint on the justices' decisions, it also represents an opportunity to foster preferred societal outcomes.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691123547
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/21/2006
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents


List of Figures and Tables ix

Acknowledgments xi

Chapter One: Introduction 1

Chapter Two: Explaining the Interpretation of Precedent 16

Chapter Three: Measuring the Interpretation of Precedent 43

Chapter Four: The Interpretation of Precedent over Time 55

Chapter Five: The Overruling of Precedent 78

Chapter Six: The Interpretation of Precedent in Majority Opinions 93

Chapter Seven: Lower Federal Court Responses to the Supreme Court's Interpretation of Precedent 109

Chapter Eight: Concluding Remarks and Broader Implications 124

Appendix 135

References 139

Index 151

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