Politics and the Courts: Toward a General Theory of Public Law

By Barbara M. Yarnold | Go to book overview
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5
A Synthesis and a General Model

Developing a general theory of public law is an ambitious task for anyone to undertake, particularly at the early stages of one's career. Yet perhaps it is best done early because one retains a sufficient amount of bravado and has not yet been subject to a sufficient amount of criticism from one's professional peers. Nevertheless, I have had some fortunate results from early public law analyses of court cases, all of which were directed in some way at discovering the conditions under which political and environmental variables appear to affect judicial decision making.

In some instances, there was temporary disappointment as my initial hypotheses were completely unsupported by the statistical analysis of objective data. So it was, for example, when I discovered that in rape sentencing cases, (Case Study 2, Chapter 2) political variables appear not to have affected court outcomes. This led, however, to discovery as I pondered the question of why political variables are important in some cases and not in others. Another surprise that ultimately generated my "judicial constituency" variable occurred in the analysis of federal court outcomes in asylum-related appeals (Cast Study 1, Chapter 2), where region was not significantly related to outcome. I began to wonder about the characteristics of individuals within judicial circuits and districts, and whether there might be a certain target group, such as immigrants, that were particularly affected by judicial decisions in asylum-related appeals and in other court cases.

Hence, through a combination of accident and rational planning, I generated what I believe to be interesting research findings that, though preliminary, shed some light on situations in which political and environmental variables are related to judicial outcomes. These findings were consolidated into a general model of public law, which will be more easily accepted if one sees it in its proper light,

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