Judicial Review in State Supreme Courts

A Comparative Study

By Laura Langer

Subjects: Judicial Administration
Series: SUNY series in American Constitutionalism
Paperback : 9780791452523, 344 pages, April 2002
Hardcover : 9780791452516, 344 pages, February 2002

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Table of contents

List of Tables
List of Figures

1. The Judiciary in a System of Checks and Balances
Courts as Policymakers
State Supreme Court Judicial Review
Evolution of Juducial Review in State Supreme Courts
Adversarial Nature of Judicial Review
Past Approaches to Studying State Supreme Courts as Policymakers
Stategic versus Sincere Behavior
A Comparative Approach to Judicial Autonomy and State Judicial Review
Organization of Study

2. Explanations of Judicial Behavior
Two Stages of Juducial Policymaking
Conceptualizations of the Juduciary
Motivations of Judges

3. A Theory of State Supreme Court Judicial Review
What Motivates Retaliation?
Legislative-Judicial Relations: A Tit for Tat Game
Defining a Judge's Safety Zone and Expected Retaliatory Threats
Expectations about Stage I: The Agenda Setting Stage
Expectations about Stage II: The Decision on the Merits Stage

4. Policy Saliency and Generalizing Behavior in Judicial Review Cases Across Different Policy Areas
Assessing Each Area of Law with Respect to Policy Saliency
Judicial Review of Campaign and Election Law
Judicial Review of Workers' Compensation Law
Judicial Review of Unemployment Compensation Law
Judicial Review of Welfare Benefit Law
Research Design, Data, and Methodology

5. Evidence of State Supreme Court Justices' Responsiveness across Four Areas of Law
Campaign and Election Law
Workers' Compensation Law
Unemployment Compensation Law
Welfare Benefit Law
General Comments Across all Four Areas of Law

6. Conclusion: Independence and Accountability in State Supreme Courts
Comparative Assessment of State Judicial Review
Implications of Judicial Review on Democratic Principles
Where Do We Go From Here?

Appendix: Measurement and Data Source


Unveils the considerable policy-making powers of state supreme courts.


Despite having the final word on many policy issues, state supreme courts have received much less scholarly attention than the United States Supreme Court. Examining these often neglected institutions, this book demonstrates that by increasing our knowledge of the behavior of state supreme court judges across differing areas of law, we can enrich our understanding of the function of state supreme courts, and the relations between these institutions and other branches of government. In addition, Judicial Review in State Supreme Courts advances our conceptualization of the judiciary and offers a more general theory about judicial behavior, accountability, and the role of courts in American society. Langer looks at the policy-making powers of state supreme courts, and the conditions under which justices are most likely to review and invalidate state laws, portraying judges as forward thinking individuals who pursue both policy and electoral goals.

Laura Langer is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Arizona.


"…a refreshing alternative … Langer [makes a] convincing case for the importance of studying judicial review in state supreme courts. She demonstrates that these courts are important policymakers. " — American Political Science Review

"This is an excellent piece of original research on a topic of substantial and growing importance in the American political process. The findings regarding the importance of a simultaneous investigation of states and internal/external forces on state supreme courts is pathbreaking. This is first class scholarship with the most appropriate statistical treatment of previously unavailable empirical data on state supreme courts. " — Nicholas P. Lovrich, Washington State University