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Neo-Institutionalism and Dissent in State Supreme Courts

Paul Brace and Melinda Gann Hall
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 52, No. 1 (Feb., 1990), pp. 54-70
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2131419
Page Count: 17
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Neo-Institutionalism and Dissent in State Supreme Courts
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Abstract

This study applies concepts derived from neo-institutionalism to coalition behavior in state supreme courts, using a pooled cross-sectional time series design. Neo-institutionalism embraces rational choice assumptions about human behavior, with particular attention to how institutional arrangements shape purposive behavior. From this perspective, dissent, or the tendency to form less than unanimous voting coalitions, is viewed not merely as the collective expression of individual attitudes or policy preferences or the result of structural characteristics of institutions but rather as a complex interaction of values and structures. A model incorporating variables derived from the neo-institutional perspective was estimated with GLS-ARMA and compared to an environmental model generated from past research. The amount of variation in dissent rates uniquely accounted for by the neo-institutional model is over six times that of the environmental model, while a composite model can explain more than one-third of the variation in state supreme court dissent rates for 1966, 1973, and 1981. More importantly, however, all the relationships posited by the neo-institutional approach are statistically significant and in the expected direction. An institutional approach guided by rational choice theory offers an important contribution toward developing a more refined understanding of judicial behavior.

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