Majority Rule or Minority Will

Adherence to Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court

Majority Rule or Minority Will

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.


 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


 Prizes:

the 1999 C. Herman Pritchett Award of the APSA
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