Relations among Courts

Susan Haire

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Relations among Courts


The interactions between judges of different courts are frequently complex, as illustrated in the case of U.S. v. Sawyer. Over the last several decades, a substantial line of scholarly inquiry has been devoted to evaluating the dynamics that characterize intercourt relations. Early scholarship offered rich descriptive accounts of lower-court reaction to controversial Supreme Court decisions in criminal procedure, equal protection, and civil liberties. The organization of judicial power in the United States is frequently conceptualized as a pyramidal structure with the Supreme Court standing at the apex on questions of federal law, including the interpretation of the Constitution. From this perspective, the Supreme Court establishes doctrine by deciding cases, which in turn guide lower courts in disputes involving similar fact patterns. Despite widespread compliance with Supreme Court doctrine, there is no clear scholarly consensus on the causal mechanisms underlying lower-court compliance.

Keywords: United States; Supreme Court; lower courts; intercourt relations; judicial power; compliance; federal law

Article.  8373 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law

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