Beijing Law Review

Volume 10, Issue 4 (September 2019)

ISSN Print: 2159-4627   ISSN Online: 2159-4635

Google-based Impact Factor: 0.28  Citations  h5-index & Ranking

Competing Agendas and the Business of the American State Supreme Courts

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DOI: 10.4236/blr.2019.104052    413 Downloads   683 Views  


This project extends the research of Kagan et al. (1977) and Kritzer et al. (2007) to examine the production of cases in the American State Supreme Courts from 1995 to 1998. We explore the relationship between the resources available to courts and litigation output to understand not only the relative efficiency of state courts, but the trade-off between areas of law (criminal, tort, and public law litigation). Due to the complex relationships between variable resources (inputs) and the competing demands of alternative areas of law (outputs), we utilize Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) to estimate relative efficiency scores for overall case production and specific areas of law. Our findings suggest that while many state supreme courts are highly efficient, many operate below full efficiency. Moreover, activity in one area of law frequently comes at the expense of another area. In addition, we use Tobit analysis to evaluate the institutional, political, and social environmental influences that account for its variation. Whether courts are more or less efficient is attributable to the methods by which the American states staff their courts, the political preferences of judges, patterns of defendant success, the number of active attorneys, use of the death penalty, and the political ideology of a state’s government.

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Brace, P. and Boyea, B. (2019) Competing Agendas and the Business of the American State Supreme Courts. Beijing Law Review, 10, 971-991. doi: 10.4236/blr.2019.104052.

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