Reflections about Judicial Politics

Harold J. Spaeth

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

Reflections about Judicial Politics


In the middle of the last century, though other fields within American politics were beginning to show the first glimmerings of a behavioral—previously quantitative—focus, judicial politics remained untouched (or “uncontaminated”) by those then modern currents. Of course, C. Herman Pritchett had published a series of brief articles in the American Political Science Review and in the Journal of Politics, then the only two general journals of political science. However, these contained only frequencies and percentages and lacked explanation. The absence of social science theory and methodology in Pritchett's early work is only partially explained by the very limited body of relevant scholarship, but also by his adherence to the belief that the justices were not merely political actors, but were mightily constrained by the law and institutional features of courts. This article deals with judicial politics and considers modeling in twenty-first-century judicial scholarship, along with personal policy preferences in the exercise of decisional choice. It also discusses the views of three leading legal philosophers: Ronald Dworkin, Bruce Ackerman, and Howard Gillman.

Keywords: C. Herman Pritchett; judicial politics; justices; modeling; personal policy preferences; political science; Ronald Dworkin; Bruce Ackerman; Howard Gillman

Article.  6033 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »