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The Transmission of Legal Precedent: A Study of State Supreme Courts

Gregory A. Caldeira
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 79, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), pp. 178-194
DOI: 10.2307/1956126
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1956126
Page Count: 17
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The Transmission of Legal Precedent: A Study of State Supreme Courts
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Abstract

In the course of making and justifying decisions, judges on state supreme courts often rely on precedents from other jurisdictions. These judicial references across boundaries constitute at least one means of communication and, in turn, demonstrate a complex web of deference and derogation between and among various courts. I attempt to uncover patterns of citation between the several state supreme courts and to evaluate alternative explanations for these patterns, including distance between courts; similarity of political culture; the prestige, professionalism, legal capital, and caseload of the cited court; the social diversity of the environment; differentials between courts on a number of dimensions; and presence in the same legal reporting region. More globally, I ask: Does the intensity of communications between a pair of courts result from the characteristics of the cited court or from differences and similarities between courts or jurisdictions? The results indicate the importance of legal reporting districts, distance between the courts, cultural linkages between the jurisdictions and, especially, characteristics of the cited court.

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