American Civil Rights Policy from Truman to Clinton: The Role of Presidential Leadership

By Steven A. Shull | Go to book overview

7
Responses by Courts and
Nongovernmental Actors

We saw in chapters 3 and 5 that calling for action by the courts, making appointments to the judiciary, and having the government enter cases constitute presidential stimuli directed at the judiciary. The courts respond to such stimuli by voting individually and collectively on cases. Complicating the transition from stimulus to response are the independence of judges once appointed, the separation of powers doctrine, the discretion the Supreme Court exercises over its docket, and the lack of complete presidential control over the solicitor general.

Some of these responses are beyond the scope of this book, but I focus on two related to presidential statements and actions--litigation and appointee voting. Litigation defines the Court docket by deciding which cases the Supreme Court will hear, and appointee voting reveals whether presidents' preferences will be upheld by their appointees. These responses are important because the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality and legality of many important domestic policy questions. Presidents often seem disappointed in decisions of the courts in high-profile cases where presidential positions are not upheld. Even though presidential appointees do not always support presidential preferences, the courts have much more commonly invalidated actions of Congress than actions of presidents ( Scigliano 1984, 408-9; LeLoup and Shull 1999, 55).

This chapter also analyzes the responses from those outside govern

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