Skip to content

Leilao Judicial Essays

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Political Science

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

James Spriggs


Forty years ago C. Herman Prichett: 1969) observed that "[P]olitical scientists who have done so much to put the `political' in `political jurisprudence' need to emphasize that it is still `jurisprudence.'" In this dissertation project I seek to help correct this imbalance by providing three fresh approaches to understanding how legal factors influence the choices judges and justices make. Essay 1 focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court's agenda setting decisions. Drawing from the archival papers of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, I analyze the extent to which considerations such as legal conflict among the circuit courts motivate justices to deviate from casting a policy-based agenda setting vote. Essay 2 focuses on the opinion writing process on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. In particular, I ask what factors lead judges on the circuit courts to cite some legally relevant previous opinions while omitting others? Finally, Essay 3, which also examines circuit court opinion writing, explores the determinants of how judges choose to positively or negatively interpret relevant previous decisions in a given issue area. In sum, this pro ject seeks to provide an important contribution to our substantive understanding of the U.S. Supreme Court and the circuit courts while simultaneously attempting to demonstrate that both legal and policy considerations influence judicial decision making.


Recommended Citation

Black, Ryan, "Essays on the Role of Law in Judicial Decision Making" (2009). All Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). 37.

Essay about The Judicial Branch

1512 Words7 Pages

The United States government consists of three main branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. Within the contents of this essay, the judicial branch will be examined. The judicial branch of the United States government oversees justice throughout the country by expounding and applying laws by means of a court system.1 This system functions by hearing and determining the legality of such cases.2 Sitting at the top of the United States court system is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States encompasses the federal judiciary, explicitly the judicial branch. This court is comprised of life-long serving Justices who are selected by the President of the United States and approved by the Senate.3 Cooperatively,…show more content…

Primarily, judicial review consists of four main components.5 The first dynamic of judicial review is that the Supreme Court can reject any federal, presidential or congressional, act or law which is deemed to be unconstitutional centred upon the judiciary’s interpretation of the United States Constitution.6 For instance, the Supreme Court can void a presidential-line item veto, i.e. the President’s ability to erase part of a bill passed by the legislature involving taxation or spending.7 In addition, the second factor of judicial review is the authority of the Supreme Court to strike down any state act (gubernatorial) or law (state legislature), which is judged as unconstitutional based, again, upon the Court’s interpretation of the United States Constitution.8 One such example of this power being exercised is when the Supreme Court annulled California’s attempt to enforce congressional term limits.9

Show More