Trying to Get What You Want: Heresthetical Maneuvering and U.S. Supreme Court Decision Making

Ryan C. Black, Rachel A. Schutte, and Timothy R. Johnson

Published 2013, Political Research Quarterly 66(4): 818-829 (December).


Riker famously theorized that political actors faced with suboptimal outcomes might be able to garner a more desirable one by adding issues to the agenda. To date, limited support for Riker’s theory of heresthetics exists, primarily consisting of case studies and anecdotal evidence. We offer a systematic analysis of heresthetical maneuvers in the context of Supreme Court decision making. We argue justices who oppose a potential case outcome may add alternative issues to the record in an effort to restructure the terms of debate. Data from justices’ behavior during oral argument support Riker’s theory.

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