Competing Constraints: State Court Responses to Supreme Court Decisions and Legislation on Wages and Hours

By Hoekstra, Valerie | Political Research Quarterly, June 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Competing Constraints: State Court Responses to Supreme Court Decisions and Legislation on Wages and Hours


Hoekstra, Valerie, Political Research Quarterly


This article examines state supreme court implementation of Supreme Court precedent when deciding cases challenging state legislation. While previous research provides a wealth of insight into how state contextual and institutional features constrain state court decisionmaking and how lower courts respond to Supreme Court precedent, very little research explicitly examines state court decisionmaking when both constraints are present. By integrating the findings of previous research, I develop and test hypotheses about the effect of these different actors on state court decisionmaking. The results show that state courts are indeed constrained by both state and federal actors. The results also suggest that there may be instances where policies are so salient to both state actors and to the U.S. Supreme Court that the influence of the state court's own policy preferences may be minimal. The findings provide important evidence about the importance of competing constraints on state supreme court decisionmaking.

For decades, scholars have been interested in studying the implementation of U.S. Supreme Court decisions by judges on lower courts.1 Most research concludes that the possibility of review by the Supreme Court effectively constrains lower court decisionmaking. This research typically examines decisionmaking on the United States Courts of Appeals. Along side this sizable literature has grown an equally large and impressive body of work examining the state-level institutional and contextual constraints on state supreme court judges.2 This work finds that state institutional and contextual features affect decisionmaking on the state high courts in interesting and often complex ways.

Surprisingly, little research attempts to combine these two lines of work to examine decisionmaking on state supreme courts when both constraints are present-constraints from the U.S. Supreme Court in the way of precedent and its ability to review and reject state court decisions, and constraints from state actors who may rewrite legislation and, often, remove a judge from office. The one project that attempts to capture both levels of constraint looks at state court decisions on abortion following Roe v. Wade (Brace, Hall, and Langer 2000). Their research finds that state court decisionmaking is affected by the state-level environment, but only to the extent that the judges' fates are tied to that environment. However, they also find that U.S. Supreme Court precedent has no effect on state court decisionmaking (Brace, Hall, Langer 2000). From this single study, can we conclude that Supreme Court precedent is meaningless to the decisionmaking among state court judges? Or, is it possible that constraints from the Supreme Court as well as from within the state weigh upon the decisionmaking of state court judges? If so, which weighs more heavily? These are the questions addressed in this work.

Recent research provides us with considerable leverage on these questions. First, it is generally accepted that judges are political actors with policy preferences that they would prefer to see enacted into law (Brace, Hall, Langer 2000; Epstein and Knight f 998; Langer 2002, Segal and Spaeth 2002). Justices on the United States Supreme Court have wide latitude to act upon their sincere preferences due to the insularity and independence they enjoy. Judges on lower courts have considerably less freedom to act upon their sincere preferences. First, most state court judges do not serve for life. Thus, the institutional rules for the selection and retention of judges limits, to varying degrees, the institutional independence of state supreme court judges from other state political actors (Brace and Hall 1995, 1997; Brace, Hall, and Langer 2000; Canon and Johnson 1999; Epstein, Knight and Shvetsova 2002; Langer 2002). Moreover, the decisions of both state and federal judges are subject to review by the Supreme Court, and judges do not like to see their decisions overturned (Baum 1976, 1978; Benesh and Reddick 2002; Canon and Johnson 1999; Songer, Segal and Cameron 1994).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Competing Constraints: State Court Responses to Supreme Court Decisions and Legislation on Wages and Hours
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?