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Congressional Control or Judicial Independence: The Determinants of U.S. Supreme Court Labor Relations Decisions, 1949-1988


  • Pablo T. Spiller
  • Rafael Gely


Extending the approach to congressional and regulatory institutions developed by Shepsle and Weingast, this article introduces an ideologically motivated judiciary. The model yields empirically refutable implications which are then tested in the framework of modelling the Court's decisions on industrial labor relations. Using information on politicians' ADA scores, the composition of the Court, and the decisions of the Court, we obtain estimates of (a) the position of the Court in relation to the relevant members of Congress, and (b) the determinants of labor policy through the years. We find, first, that the Court was constrained by Congress over at least half of the period. Second, a 10-point increase in the ADA rating of the relevant member of Congress, or in the imputed ADA rating of the Supreme Court, increases the probability of a pro-union decision by approximately eight percentage points. Third, the imputed political preferences of the Court seem to be well explained simply by its political composition. Fourth, the Court does not seem to defer to the NLRB. Finally, though parsimonious, our model is a relatively good predictor of the Court's decisions, and superior to both a simple political bargaining model without institutional content and a nonsophisticated or purely legalistic judicial decision-making model. Our results, then, suggest that the Court responds, albeit indirectly, to interest group pressures.
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  • Pablo T. Spiller & Rafael Gely, 1990. "Congressional Control or Judicial Independence: The Determinants of U.S. Supreme Court Labor Relations Decisions, 1949-1988," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 64, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:chices:64

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. J. Mark Ramseyer & Eric B. Rasmusen, 2001. "When are Judges and Bureaucrats Left Independent? Theory and History from Imperial Japan, Postwar Japan, and the United States," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-126, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    2. Iaryczower, Matias & Lewis, Garrett & Shum, Matthew, 2013. "To elect or to appoint? Bias, information, and responsiveness of bureaucrats and politicians," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 230-244.
    3. Joshua B. Fischman, 2015. "Do the Justices Vote Like Policy Makers? Evidence from Scaling the Supreme Court with Interest Groups," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(S1), pages 269-293.
    4. Matthew C. Stephenson, 2003. "“When the Devil Turns … †: The Political Foundations of Independent Judicial Review," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 59-89, January.
    5. Freyens, Benoit Pierre & Gong, Xiaodong, 2017. "Judicial decision making under changing legal standards: The case of dismissal arbitration," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 108-126.
    6. Stefanie A. Lindquist & Pamela C. Corley, 2011. "The Multiple-Stage Process of Judicial Review: Facial and As-Applied Constitutional Challenges to Legislation before the U.S. Supreme Court," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 467-502.
    7. Claire Lim, 2009. "Turnover and Accountability of Appointed and Elected Judges," 2009 Meeting Papers 190, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Ramseyer, J. Mark & Rasmusen, Eric B., 2007. "Political uncertainty's effect on judicial recruitment and retention: Japan in the 1990s," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 329-345, June.
    9. Horst Feldmann, 2009. "The quality of the legal system and labor market performance around the world," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 39-65, August.
    10. repec:eid:wpaper:12/09 is not listed on IDEAS

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