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Inviting Congressional Action: A Study of Supreme Court Motivations in Statutory Interpretation

Lori Hausegger and Lawrence Baum
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 162-185
DOI: 10.2307/2991789
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2991789
Page Count: 24
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Inviting Congressional Action: A Study of Supreme Court Motivations in Statutory Interpretation
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Abstract

Theory: The Supreme Court's occasional "invitations" to Congress to reverse the Court's statutory decisions challenge two influential theories of the Court's behavior and thus merit attention. Hypotheses: Three alternative explanations for invitations are posited: low interest in certain cases on the part of the justices, a desire to maintain the Court's institutional standing, and a desire to achieve both good policy and good law. Methods: These alternative explanations are tested through a logit analysis of the Court's statutory decisions in the 1986 through 1990 terms; the dependent variable is the presence or absence of what we call a strong invitation to Congress in the majority opinion. Results: The results of the analysis give greatest support to the hypothesis that justices have an interest in achieving both good policy and good law. This finding underlines the need to take the Court's invitations into account in the debate over the impact of legal and policy considerations on Supreme Court decisions.

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