Supreme Court's Docket Strongly Influenced by Congressional Preferences, NYU Study Finds


The cases the United States Supreme Court chooses to hear are strongly influenced by the legislative preferences of Congress, scholars at New York University have found. Their research, which examined the Rehnquist Court from 1987 to 2001, showed that the justices were less likely to hear cases involving constitutional challenges to liberal statutes from 1987 to 1994, when the House and the Senate were under Democratic control, than they were from 1995 to 2001, when Republicans had a majority in both chambers. The study, “Ducking Trouble,” appears in this month’s issue of the Journal of Politics.

Previous studies have found that Congress has little influence on Supreme Court rulings, but this body of research has focused on the Court’s decisions and not on which cases it chooses to hear. In “Ducking Trouble,” the study’s co-authors, Anna Harvey, a professor in NYU’s Department of Politics, and Barry Friedman, a professor in NYU’s School of Law, developed a model to estimate the probability that the high court would review a congressional statute, in order to determine if there was a selection bias in the cases it chose to hear.

“This paper thus provides the first estimates of which we are aware of the magnitude of the congressionally induced selection bias in the Court’s constituti 500

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