Neither sword nor purse: the development of Supreme Court influence over lower courts

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University of Alabama Libraries

Lower court compliance with the superior courts is now a norm in the judicial system of the United States. This dissertation will examine the development of the Supreme Court's ability to influence the decisions by lower courts. My general theory is that lower court compliance with the Supreme Court became more of a certainty as the federal judicial system developed statutorily, particularly after 1875. I will test the impact that three judicial reforms had (and continue to have) on Supreme Court power over lower courts: the Jurisdiction and Removal Act of 1875, the Judiciary Act of 1891, and the Judges Act of 1925. These reforms, I will argue, added characteristics to the judicial system that help predict compliance, all of which are still present in the system and can be shown to have an effect on compliance in contemporary times. These characteristics include the availability of federal forums for the implementation of constitutional policies, the authoritative communication of Court policies by intermediate courts to trial level courts, and the ability of the Court to select cases that allow it the opportunity to announce clear policy. To test my theory, I will use a variety of historically important Supreme Court policies and employ a coding scheme for lower court cases to test whether a case presents an instance of compliance or non-compliance with the specific Supreme Court policy.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Political science, Law