Lawyers, Justices, and Issue Salience: When and How Do Legal Arguments Affect the U.S. Supreme Court?

Article excerpt

Andrea McAtee and Kevin T. McGuire, "Lawyers, Justices, and Issue Salience: When and How Do Legal Arguments Affect the U.S. Supreme Court?" Law and Society Review 41 (June 2007): 259-78.

Adding to McGuire's line of work on the effects of lawyering on the U.S. Supreme Court, McAtee and McGuire make use of lawyers' experience, the quality of their oral arguments (as measured by "grades" assigned by the late Justice Blackmun), and participation by the solicitor general (S-G), to examine whether legal advocacy affects Supreme Court justices' votes. They find that lawyer experience and quality of argument, but not S-G participation (after controls), affect those votes. Of especial importance is their finding that the salience of a case makes a difference in lawyering effects: in cases of greater public salience, "the legal community matters less, if at all, when the justices already have strong preferences," but in non-salient cases, "when the justices actually need lawyers to better inform their decisionmaking," veteran advocates "provide an advantage," regardless of which side they represent (at 273). …