Dr. Brandon Bartels

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GWIPP Research: Brandon Bartels

This page features research funded through GWIPP and performed by Brandon Bartels.

Title: The Constraining Capacity of Law on the U.S. Supreme Court

Funding: National Science Foundation

Researcher(s): Brandon Bartels

Start Date: September, 2011

Status: Current


Summary: Does legal doctrine contrain Supreme Court justices' choices? Or do justices' ideological preferences dominate their decisions to the exclusion of legal considerations? This "law versus ideology" debate continues to a central inquiry in the study of law and courts. Political scientists have traditionally concluded that legal doctrine exhibits a minimal impact on decision making, while legal scholars have highlighted a more important role for law. What is missing from this body of work is a fuller accounting of the capacity of legal doctrine to contrain justices from acting on the basis of their ideological preferences. This project seeks to fill that gap by extending the theory and empirical analysis from the PI's article in American Political Science Review (Bartels 2009) -- on the "constraining capacity" of legal doctrine -- to additional issues areas beyond free expression law. The result will be a large-scale book project representing a comprehensive theoretical and empirical examination of the conditions under which legal doctrine exhibits influence on the Supreme Court.