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The Constrained CourtLaw, Politics, and the Decisions Justices Make$
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Michael A. Bailey and Forrest Maltzman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151045

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151045.001.0001

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The Measure of Law

The Measure of Law

Estimating Preferences across Institutions and Time

(p.17) Chapter 2 The Measure of Law
The Constrained Court

Michael A. Bailey

Forrest Maltzman

Princeton University Press

This chapter articulates the challenges that any empirically oriented scholar would have in devising a measure of judicial preferences. It shows that it is impossible to make robust across-time comparisons using only Court voting. However, if we incorporate additional data we can create a measure of ideology that meets our needs and has face validity. The estimates we produce accord much better with the general understanding of Court movements over time as they indicate that Nixon's appointees moved the Court modestly to the right but that the Court remained quite moderate in historical terms in the early 1970s. The fundamental challenge is that it is hard to separate preference change from agenda change.

Keywords:   Supreme Court justices, judicial preferences, Court voting, Richard Nixon

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