The U.S. Court of Appeals and the Law of Confessions: Perspectives on the Hierarchy of Justice

The U.S. Court of Appeals and the Law of Confessions: Perspectives on the Hierarchy of Justice

The U.S. Court of Appeals and the Law of Confessions: Perspectives on the Hierarchy of Justice

The U.S. Court of Appeals and the Law of Confessions: Perspectives on the Hierarchy of Justice

Synopsis

"Sara C. Benesh is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Since beginning graduate school in 1995, I have been intrigued by the Courts of Appeals. First I was intrigued because of their institutional position. What does a federal court, charged with judicial review and policy making of all sorts, do when it’s in a position in which it can be overruled, but hardly ever is overruled? Is there a real constraint there, and, if so, is it strong enough to actually influence their behavior? After some reading I was intrigued again to find that they actually do comply, nearly all the time. I simply had to figure out why! This book is an attempt at a preliminary answer to that question. With the odds stacked against it, it seems the U.S. Supreme Court gets compliance and has an impact, even though it’s completely against the Courts of Appeals’ interest at times and even though the Supreme Court does very little to induce that compliance. This puzzle is completely intriguing to me, and as I work through what I think may be a potential resolution, I hope it intrigues you too.

In this book, I discuss the confession cases in the U.S. Courts of Appeals, seeking to explain decision making in that area. In order to do so, I draw on principal-agent theory as it is related to the four major models of judicial decision making: the attitudinal model, the legal model, the strategic model, and the neo-institutional model. It seems to me that elements of all of these models are at work in the Courts of Appeals, none to the exclusion of the others. Attitudes matter as measured by political party affiliation of the panels; law matters as embodied by facts deriving from Supreme Court precedent; strategy matters as seen by the apparent desire to avoid reversal; and the institutional position of the lower court matters as it takes the Supreme Court into account in making its decisions. In short, these courts are complicated, as they deal with a myriad of influences the Supreme Court rarely thinks about. Their decision making is, sensibly, effected by these complications. So, we move from the extremely parsimonious . . .

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