Courts and the Politics of Partisan Coalitions

Howard Gillman

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

Courts and the Politics of Partisan Coalitions


One of the most promising ways of integrating the study of law and courts into the mainstream of political analysis is to focus more attention on how legal institutions figure into the broader interests and agendas of other power holders. Toward this end an increasing number of scholars within political science have begun to develop what is becoming known as a “regime politics” approach to the study of courts. Much of the work associated with this research agenda focuses especially on the relationship between courts and party politics. This article examines how courts fit into regime politics and the dynamics of national governing coalitions. It considers some propositions that can be associated with Roald Dahl's original argument about how courts should be expected to cooperate with the prevailing governing coalition as well as his account of U.S. Supreme Court politics. The article also discusses the role of courts in the enhancement of “credible commitments” to favored constituencies, as coalition stabilizers, in the imposition of national norms on “regional outliers,” in political entrenchment, and as independent policy makers.

Keywords: Roald Dahl; Supreme Court; courts; politics; law; regime politics; party politics; national governing coalitions; credible commitments; regional outliers

Article.  8149 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law

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