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Environmental and Structural Variables as Determinants of Issues in State Courts of Last Resort

Burton M. Atkins and Henry R. Glick
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 20, No. 1 (Feb., 1976), pp. 97-115
DOI: 10.2307/2110511
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110511
Page Count: 19
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Environmental and Structural Variables as Determinants of Issues in State Courts of Last Resort
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Abstract

The linkage between state socioeconomic and political environments and issues found in decisions of state courts of last resort is explored. It is found that, in general, state courts of last resort in rural, politically undifferentiated states tend to decide larger proportions of private litigation than courts within more highly industrialized, politically competitive states. These latter courts of last resort tend to focus upon criminal law, civil liberties, and economic regulation cases. Multiple regression analysis shows that the six environmental descriptors and one court system variable--the presence or absence of an intermediate appellate court--explain a substantial portion of the variance in the distribution of issues among the states. The study demonstrates that environmental variables are important predictors to the kinds of decisions rendered by courts, and underscores the need for more systematic, comparative analysis of state judicial systems.

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