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Majority Rule or Minority Will: Adherence to Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court Paperback – April 12, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0521805711 ISBN-10: 0521805716 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521805716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521805711
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This book by two distinguished political scientists makes a bold claim: Supreme Court justices rarely adhere to precedent, and when they do, it is usually in cases of no great importance. The authors write crystal-clear prose and sustain it with copious and careful research....This landmark book should be read by all serious students of the judicial process." Choice

"In Majority Rule or Minority Will, Harold Spaeth and Jeffrey Segal provide a much-needed rigourous empirical examination of the influence of precedent on U.S. Supreme Court justices' decisions. Spaeth and Segal provide a clear definition of the influence of precedent and offer detailed coding protocols for how they measured it....Majority Rule or Minority Will represents a major advance over existing scholarship and will have a lasting impact on the way scholars think about precedent....this book is a must read for anyone interested in precedent, the Supreme Court, or judicial decision making." The Law and Politics Book Review

"This empirical study of the influence of precendent on U.S. Supreme Court justices finds that the doctrine of stare decisis has only a slight influence on the justices and even then only in the least salient of the Court's decisions. Spaeth and Segal conclude that throughout the Court's history, individual justices have developed a position and then stuck to it." Law & Social Inquiry

"This text is a highly valuable addition to the field of judicial theory within the realm of political science...should be required acquisitions ofr all academic libraries that support programs in political science. In fact, this well written title would make a valuable addition to any law library in that its conclusions could be garnered to generate insight into many judicial decision-making processes." Journal of Government Information

"...path-breaking book...It prompts legal scholars and political scientists once again to ponder the role of jurisprudential principles in judicial decision making and to figure out how we can identify and measure their influence." Canadian Journal of Political Science

"Their new book, Majority Rule or Minority Will, is a follow-up to...This book raises important qusetions that the heart of work being done by judges and "jurisprudentially minded scholars"." American Bar Foundation

Book Description

This book examines the influence of precedent on the behavior of the US Supreme Court justices throughout the Court's history. Supreme Court justices almost always "follow" precedent, in that they always cite precedents for the positions they take. Because there are always precedents on either side of a case for justices to follow, following precedent does not mean that the justices are ever influenced by precedent. Employing the assumption that for precedent to be an influence on the behavior of justices, it must lead to a result they would not otherwise have reached, the authors show that precedent rarely controls the justices' votes.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JJ on April 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Majority Rule or Minority Will, Harold Spaeth and Jeffrey Segal provide much needed empirical examination of the influence of precedent upon the decisions of Supreme Court Justices. The central question addressed by the authors is not whether justices are influenced by the decisions that were reached in previously decided cases, but whether this influence exists at a systematic and substantively meaningful level in the Supreme Court. There are three answers to this question. First, it could be found that justices are precedental by nature and follow the doctrine of stare decisis in all or nearly all of the cases in which it could be applied. Second, justices could be "legal moderates" in that precedent is an occasional influence upon their decisions, but other factors are often present. The final possible answer is that justices are preferential by nature and are rarely influenced by precedent.
In an effort to answer their question, the authors sought to examine the decisions of the justices in the progeny of established precedents. To complete this task in an appropriate manner, the authors used a sampling of major and minor decisions in which precedent was set. The author's sampled 100% of the cases with dissent from Elder Witt's list of "Major Decisions" from his Guide to the US Supreme Court (1990). The justify their use of these cases as they see Witt's list as more broad than others and the list has been employed by the authors in earlier research. So as to inquire if their findings would be generalizable, the authors also included a sampling of minor decisions of the Court. Sampling became necessary for the authors due to the amount of cases that the Court has decided that include dissent.
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Majority Rule or Minority Will: Adherence to Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court
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