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Studying Courts Comparatively: The View from the American States

Paul Brace and Melinda Gann Hall
Political Research Quarterly
Vol. 48, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 5-29
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah
DOI: 10.2307/449117
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449117
Page Count: 25
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Studying Courts Comparatively: The View from the American States
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Abstract

In this study, we perform a basic exercise to illustrate the vital influence of institutional rules and structures on judicial behavior, and the importance of recognizing this influence in models of judicial choice. Specifically, we estimate several models of state supreme court justices' voting on the death penalty. Beginning with a simple preferences model, an institutional model, and an additive preferences-institutional model, we explore the extent to which our understanding of judicial behavior is enhanced or changed through models that include the interactive effects of institutional features with other sources of influence on judicial choice. Our most fundamental point, clearly supported by the results, is that the effects of case facts, personal attributes, and environmental features are conditioned by institutional arrangements. Any explanation of judicial choice must consider carefully the impact of institutional context on the exercise of judicial discretion. Through this approach, the inconsistencies among findings and theory in the judicial behavior literature can be reconciled, and a general theory of judicial choice can be developed.

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