The Role of State Supreme Courts in the New Judicial Federalism

By Susan P. Fino | Go to book overview

ation. Here, I have used three different measures of state court performance: reversal rates of lower court decisions, levels of intracourt disagreement and judicial activism scores. I believe that some of the differences among the courts may be accounted for by some of the variables contained in the model presented in Chapter 1. Contextual variables, such as political culture, the state's socioeconomic diversity, internal unity and party competition, may account for the levels of dissent and reversals. Elements of this theory are supported by the work of Jaros and Canon ( 1971). Institutional variables, particularly the presence or absence of an intermediate appellate court, also may influence dissents and reversal rates. The importance of intermediate appellate courts in the state judiciary has been noted by Davies ( 1982), Kagan et al. ( 1978) and Atkins and Glick ( 1976). Generally, intermediate appellate courts should be associated with increased dissents and reversals by the state court of last resort. The findings contained in this chapter lend support to this theory. Finally, the personal characteristics and interactions among the justices also may help to explain dissent rates. Jaros and Canon ( 1971) have shown that social background characteristics of state supreme court justices have an impact on dissent rates. I have suggested some additional factors to be considered in examining dissent. First, maverick justices may account for a disproportionate number of dissents and concurrences. Maverick justices feel compelled to produce extra opinion even when these opinions seem to add little to the exposition of the law. I can only assume that this behavior is a function of the personality of the justices. Also, the presence of a maverick justice on a court will be a random occurrence. Second, state supreme courts may operate under different decision- making norms. Fenno ( 1973) work on congressional committees may provide some guidance in the development of theory of decision-making norms on state supreme courts.

I have done little in the chapter to explain variations in judicial activism. The next chapter examines the work of the six courts in some detail and suggest some reasons for variations in judicial activism.


NOTES
1.
See, for example, Atkins, Burton M., and Henry R. Glick. 1976. "Environmental and Structural Variables as Determinants of Issues in State Courtsof Last Resort"

-85-

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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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