The upcoming issue of The Journal of Politics (May 2006) will include several articles in the law and courts field. It will also include a new study by Simon Jackman and Paul Sniderman on the effects of deliberation, which remains a popular topic among both political scientists and law professors. (They conclude that at least in one sense, "deliberation is for naught.") Manuscripts of most of the articles are available on the JOP website. Here are the abstracts:
One hundred fifteen law students were given a mock brief with identical legal arguments on both sides of a standing dispute in litigation involving restrictions on political expression of public employees. The content of the expression at issue (pro-choice vs. pro-life) and the jurisdiction where the case was pending (with vs. without controlling authority on the standing issue) were experimentally manipulated. Participants' policy views on (1) abortion, (2) free speech and (3) Hatch Act restrictions were measured to assess their influence on the standing decision. In line with traditional notions of legal reasoning, participants were able to separate their views on Hatch Act restrictions from the standing decision. Opinions on free speech, however, influenced judgments consistent with attitudinal hypotheses. Also, participants’ opinions on abortion interacted with speech content to influence judgments – but in a manner not wholly consistent with legal or attitudinal accounts of decision-making.
Lee Epstein, Rene Lindstadt, Jeffrey A. Segal and Chad Westerland, "The Changing Dynamics of Senate Voting on Supreme Court Nominees."
A near-universal consensus exists that the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 triggered a new regime in the Senate’s voting over presidential nominees—a regime that de-emphasizes ethics, competence, and integrity and stresses instead politics, philosophy, and ideology. Nonetheless, this conventional wisdom remains largely untested.
In this paper we explore the extent to which the Bork nomination has affected the decisions of U.S. senators. To do so, we modernize, update, and backdate the standard account of confirmation politics offered by Cameron, Cover, and Segal (1990) to cover all candidates for the Supreme Court from Hugo L. Black in 1937 through John G. Roberts, Jr. in 2005.
Our results confirm conventional wisdom about the Bork nomination but with two notable caveats. First, while the importance of ideology has reached new heights, the Senate’s emphasis on this factor had its genesis some three decades earlier, in the 1950s. Second, while ideology is of paramount concern to senators, a candidate’s professional merit also remains a significant determinant of success in the Senate.
Anibal Perez-Linan, Barry Ames, and Mitchell Seligson, "Strategy, Careers, and Judicial Decisions: Lessons from the Bolivia Courts."
Using survey data from Bolivian trial courts, we explore the relationship between judicial decisions, career goals, and hierarchical pressures in continental legal systems. Based on a principal-agent approach, we hypothesize that inferior court judges are more likely to defer to superior courts when they share their interpretation of the law, when they anticipate reversals, and when they fear political manipulation of judicial careers. In turn, superior judges are likely to exercise informal pressures over inferior court judges who deviate from the former’s legal views and do not anticipate their preferences. The conclusions emphasize the utility of survey research for the study of strategic compliance in judicial institutions.
Simon Jackman and Paul Sniderman, "The Limits of Deliberative Discussion: A Model of Everyday Political Arguments."
Can citizens learn from talking politics with one another? To bring out the logic of deliberation, we focus on a simplified model of political discussion: a one-exchange argument. Our model rests on three conditions, all commonly satisfied in real life: (1) that only two alternatives are open for choice – support or opposition to a policy; (2) that as political sophistication increases, so too does the probability that citizens will choose the policy alternative more consonant with their most thoroughly considered view of the matter; and (3) that arguments on opposing sides of an issue are of equal quality. Taking advantage of a specially designed experiment embedded in a large public opinion survey in France, we find that the proportion of citizens choosing policy alternatives consonant with their more general ideological orientations does not increase over the course of our experiment. In the aggregate, we find that deliberation leads at least as many people to ideologically inconsistent positions as it helps people find their way to ideologically consistent positions. In this sense, we find that deliberation is for naught.