The book The Supreme Court in the American Legal System (Segal/Spaeth/Benesh 2005) is reviewed by Richard Pacelle (Georgia Southern) in the recent Perspectives on Politics (Vol. 4, No. 1, Mar. 2006). While the short review recognizes that the book "is designed to be a less methodologically sophisticated analysis," the review questions the book's usefulness--"this will be a book in search of a market"--because Pacelle "suspect[s] instructors will opt for a more nuanced treatment of judicial decision making." Pacelle's hypothesis may be correct; but perhaps the book might also be filling a gap in the market. For example, to my knowledge, it is the only text on judicial process/behavior that includes a website with empirical data and commands (in SPSS) to let students replicate the analyses presented in the book.
It seems that judicial politics/judicial decision-making/American legal system/Supreme Court seminars involve professors and students with a wide range of methodological interest and expertise. While the ELS Blog discussed book selection in the classroom before, no suggestions were made about what judicial behavior books should be used for different types of courses with students and professors of varying interests and training, e.g., graduate versus undergraduate students; students with versus without statistical training. (A hierarchy was successfully created for statistical software.) I've seen Robert McCloskey's The American Supreme Court assigned for both undergraduate non-empirical courses and law school empirical seminars on the courts, with most graduate judicial politics seminars in law and the social sciences assigning The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model Revisited.
What is the hierarchy of foundational judicial decision-making texts in terms of methodological sophistication? Or, more specifically, what should one assign law students (or upper level undergraduates) with no previous statistics training in a judicial decision-making seminar?
As a follow-up to Jason’s post about teaching
empiricism, it could be a helpful service of the ELS Blog to compile a list of
the research methodology courses taught within law schools. Naturally, traditional legal research courses do not count for these purposes. (We don’t need a list of 180 first-year legal research courses, even if they really are empirical.)
Anyone who would like to help along the process of compiling this list
can post a comment or e-mail me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org), preferably with a link to a course
description or even a syllabus. Since course catalogs do not always reflect what is actually being taught, these responses would be of great help in figuring out what is really going on within the law schools. I’ll post the list sometime soon and update it as needed.
One increasingly frequent response to colleagues and students who approach me periodically with an array of statistical and methodological questions is to alert them to a wonderfully rich resource in the form of a site hosted by UCLA's Academic Technology Services group. Many of its resources are online and might assist many with questions ranging from the general to the software package specific (e.g., Stata, SPSS). The site (here) is certainly worth a quick visit for anyone interested.
I teach a seminar on judicial decision-making that focuses on the courts as political institutions, emphasizing the social science literature on the courts. An issue often batted around by those who teach these judicial behavior courses is what major books should be assigned. I think two are a must read:
(1) The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model Revisited by Segal & Spaeth
(2) The Choices Justices Make by Epstein & Knight
I also like to assign Rosenberg's The Hollow Hope.
The real difficulty in teaching a judicial behavior course is helping students understand empirical methodologies. Thus, I asked the following question to a number of colleagues: Can anyone recommend an introductory text for students who are trying to better understand the basic statistics and regression analyses used in the many empirical papers on judicial decision-making? It seems there are few options. I received the following suggestions:
Marija Norusis' SPSS Guide to Data Analysis
Andy Field’s Discovering Statistics
Paul Allison's Multiple Regression : A Primer
I have not used any of these, and instead have explained basic statistical analyses using particularly accessible and easy to understand articles. Does anyone have any other suggestions? Comments are open.