Leveraging the Law: Using the Courts to Achieve Social Change

Leveraging the Law: Using the Courts to Achieve Social Change

Leveraging the Law: Using the Courts to Achieve Social Change

Leveraging the Law: Using the Courts to Achieve Social Change

Synopsis

"Leveraging the Law is an important and timely collection of essays by noted political scientists and legal scholars who critically explore the relationship between the courts, political mobilization, and social change. Employing a wide variety of methodological perspectives and drawing upon numerous case studies, the authors demonstrate how and under what conditions the courts can be an important force for political change and social reform. While in some situations the judiciary is politically impotent or irrelevant, Leveraging the Law shows that courts do matter and that litigants can use the judiciary to secure numerous goals." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

David Schultz

Do courts and the law matter? Can legal institutions significantly affect public opinion, encourage political mobilization, or influence the functioning and operations of social institutions? Do legal norms constrain behavior or are political preferences more important in controlling the choices of judges and political actors? Much of the politics and political activity in the United States in the last fifty years assumed an affirmative answer to these questions. However, in an era when some wonder how far we have come in desegregating our schools or in reforming our prisons after all these years, it is not so clear that the conventional wisdom and answers are correct. Hence, asking if courts and the law are institutionally and politically efficacious forms the theme for this book, building upon a series of debates surrounding the efficacy and legitimacy of the courts and the law to effect social change in American society.

Federal Courts and American Politics

Disagreement over the role of the courts in American society dates back to the days of the constitutional framers, who debated what role the federal courts should have vis-à-vis the executive and legislative branches. In 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention debated whether the judiciary would have the power to "set aside the law" or whether the court should have a veto over the legislature (Farrend 1966, 298-299). In addition, delegates probed the jurisdictional limits of judicial power, asking what impact the court might have upon states or how it would affect the president and Congress (Madison 1966, 46, 537, 538-539). Similarly, in the debates on the . . .

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