3 - Studying bureaucratic implementation of judicial policies in the United States: conceptual and methodological approaches  pp. 76-100

Studying bureaucratic implementation of judicial policies in the United States: conceptual and methodological approaches

By Bradley C. Canon

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American scholars have been studying the impact of court decisions for almost half a century. One impetus to doing this was the dramatic defiance mounted in southern states to the US Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision declaring segregated schools unconstitutional. Southern resistance was followed by opposition and evasion of other major new policies adopted by the Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953–69), for example, striking down prayers in public schools, prohibiting the introduction of illegally seized evidence in criminal trials, and requiring the police to inform suspects of their rights before questioning them.

The ‘behavioural revolution’ in American political science also produced considerable attention to judicial impact. Around 1960, many scholars began investigating actual behaviour as they sought explanations for the making of public policies (including judicial decisions), how they were implemented, who was affected, and how. Researchers began testing hypotheses and developing more general theories. By 1970, Stephen Wasby had gleaned 135 hypotheses from the impact literature. The study of what happened following court decisions flourished in the 1970s and afterwards. Numerous political science dissertations focused on impact, and most political science conventions devoted a panel or two to it. In 1984, Charles A. Johnson and I published Judicial Policies: Implementation and Impact. It organised the studies by ‘populations’ impacted, and offered an array of general theories that seemed to explain at least some forms of impact.


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