1. We covered the three major theories of judicial decision making in this course. Consider each theory in turn and discuss in detail the following:

-What similarities exist among the theories?

-What differences exist across these theories?

An excellent answer will (1) specify the different dimensions or aspect for comparison and (2) cover each of the three theories on each of the specified dimensions.

Answers will be graded on the following criteria: (1) accuracy of comparisons, (2) depth of comparisons, (3) coverage of theories, and (4) number of good arguments.

Reading material…. Judicial Decision Making


Attitudinal Approaches

Theoretical Perspectives & Empirical Evidence (September 11th)

  1. Jeffrey Segal and Harold Spaeth. 2002. Supreme Court & the Attitudinal Model Revisited. Chapter 2 & pp. 86-97.
  2. Lawrence Baum. 2017. Ideology in the Supreme Court. (All but chapter 4.)
  3. Howard Gillman. 2001. “What’s Law Got to Do with It? Judicial Behavioralists Test the ‘Legal Model’ of Judicial Decision Making,” Law & Social Inquiry 26: 465-504.
  4. Erin Kaheny, Susan Brodie Haire and Sara C. Benesh. 2008. “Change over Tenure: Voting, Variance, and Decision Making on the U.S. Courts of Appeals,” American Journal of Political Science 52: 490-503.

Attitudinal & Psychological Influences (September 18th):

  1. Eileen Braman and Thomas E. Nelson. 2007. “Mechanism of Motivated Reasoning? Analogical Perception in Discrimination Disputes,” American Journal of Political Science 51: 940-956.
  2. Adam Glynn and Maya Sen. 2015. “Identifying Judicial Empathy: Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women’s Issues?” American Journal of Political Science 59: 37-54.
  3. Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Andrew J. Wistrich, and Chris Guthrie. 2009. “Does Unconscious Racial Bias Affect Trial Judges?” Notre Dame Law Review 84: 1196-1246.


Strategic Approaches

Theoretical Perspectives (September 25th)

  1. Lee Epstein and Jack Knight. 1998. The Choices Justices Make. 1.
  2. Forrest Maltzman, James Spriggs II, & Paul Wahlbeck. 2000. Crafting Law on the Supreme Court. Ch. 1.
  3. Clifford Carruba, Matthew Gabel and Charles Hankla. 2008. “Judicial Behavior under Political Constraints: Evidence from the European Court of Justice,” American Political Science Review 102: 435-52.

Evidence for Strategic Thinking (October 2nd)

  1. Bonneau, Chris, Thomas Hammond, Forrest Maltzman, and Paul Wahlbeck. 2007. “Agenda Control, the Median Justices, and the Majority Opinion on the U.S. Supreme Court,” American Journal of Political Science 51: 890-905.


  1. Lee Epstein and Jack Knight, The Choices Justices Make. Ch. 3, 4, pp. 138-157.


  1. Virginia A. Hettinger, Stefanie A. Lindquist, and Wendy L. Martinek. 2004. “Comparing Attitudinal and Strategic Accounts of Dissenting Behavior on the U.S. Courts of Appeals,” American Journal of Political Science 48: 123-137.
  2. Deborah Beim and Jonathan Kastellec. 2014. “The Interplay of Ideological Diversity, Dissents, and Discretionary Review in the Judicial Hierarchy: Evidence from Death Penalty Cases,” Journal of Politics 76: 1074-1088.


Influence of Law on Decision Making (October 9th)

  1. Mark J. Richards and Herbert M. Kritzer. 2002. “Jurisprudential Regimes in Supreme Court Decision Making,” American Political Science Review 96: 305-320.
  2. Bartels, Brandon L. and Andrew J. O’Green. 2015. “The Nature of Legal Change on the U.S. Supreme Court: Jurisprudential Regimes Theory and Its Alternatives,” American Journal of Political Science 59: 880-895.
  3. Michael A. Bailey and Forrest Maltzman. 2008. “Does Legal Doctrine Matter? Unpacking Law and Policy Preferences on the U.S. Supreme Court,” American Political Science Review 102: 369-384.
  4. Donald R. Songer, Martha Humphries Ginn, and Tammy Sarver. 2003. “Do Judges Follow the Law When There is No Fear of Reversal?” Justice System Journal 24: 137-161.


  1. Select ONE of the following research questions below:
  2. What conditions allow for the development of independent courts?
  3. What effects, if any, do judicial elections have on judges and courts?
  4. How do court decisions affect public opinion and how does public opinion affect judicial decision making?


For the selected question, do the following:

-Construct an explanation, specifying key factors.

-Explain the underlying logic/rationale/argument that connects the factors cited above.

-Describe the generalizability of your explanation outside of the evidence you’ve used to support your argument.

Answers will be graded on the following criteria: (1) convincing set of factors identified, (2) compelling logic/rationale/argumentation (this is the most important criterion), and (3) accuracy of the theoretical discussion, both identification and generalizability.