The Role of State Supreme Courts in the New Judicial Federalism

By Susan P. Fino | Go to book overview

4. The Work of Six Supreme Courts

In this chapter, I compare the performance of six state courts of last resort--Arizona, Kentucky, California, Michigan, Nebraska and New Jersey--for 1975. I focus on three measures of performance: dissent rates, rates of reversals of lower court decisions and judicial activism scores. I also formulate some theories to account for the variation in the performance of the courts.


METHODOLOGY

The opinions of six state courts of last resort for 1975 were content analyzed and coded in the effort to illustrate some aspects of the model of state court performance presented in Chapter 1. I have selected one state from each of the six court classes for study. The state courts chosen exhibit different institutional and cultural characteristics, but I make no attempt to argue that this limited sample of courts is representative of all the states. Therefore, I do not argue that my findings here are generalizable to all state courts of last resort. However, I do believe my findings are suggestive since they seem to point to fruitful areas for future, comprehensive studies.

I have chosen to begin my study of state supreme courts in 1975. This choice was based upon practical and theoretical reasons. The 1976 edition of State Court Systems, which describes the institutional characteristics of the state courts just prior to January 1, 1976, is the first readily available catalogue of information on the courts of all fifty states. Since I am interested in the effect of institutional characteristics on state supreme court performance, my choice of years for the study

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The Role of State Supreme Courts in the New Judicial Federalism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Legal Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1. a Model of Supreme Court Performance 1
  • Notes 23
  • 2. Institutional Characteristics of State Supreme Courts 25
  • Notes 46
  • 3. the Justices 49
  • Notes 64
  • 4. the Work of Six Supreme Courts 65
  • Notes 85
  • 5. a Closer Look at Six Courts 87
  • Notes 109
  • 6. Conclusions 111
  • Note 118
  • Appendix 119
  • Bibliography 143
  • Index to Cases 147
  • Subject Index 149
  • About the Author 155
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