Selecting the Select Few: The Discuss List and the U.S. Supreme Court's Agenda-Setting Process

Ryan C. Black and Christina L. Boyd

Published 2013, Social Science Quarterly 94(4): 1124-1144 (December).


We provide a comprehensive examination of the U.S. Supreme Court’s agenda-setting process by jointly studying the setting of the discuss list and the final decision to grant or deny review. Our hypotheses investigate how informational cues might differentially affect a petition for review at each stage of the Court’s case selection stage based on both the costs of identifying the cues and the degree of information provided within them. Confirming our expectations, our analysis reveals that both positive cues and negative cues play different roles across the two stages of the Court’s agenda-setting process. These findings are noteworthy since they suggest that the impact of some commonly studied case attributes differs between when a case is selected for the initial level of review versus when it is added to the Court’s plenary docket.

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