US Supreme Court Agenda Setting and the Role of Litigant Status

Ryan C. Black and Christina L. Boyd

Published 2012, Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization 28(2): 286-312 (June).


Whether the "haves" come out ahead of the "have nots" in the judicial process is a topic of great interest for scholars of the judiciary. Although studies of lower courts have found that litigant status generally matters, research at the US Supreme Court is not of one voice, with conflicting results across several studies. Bringing a novel perspective to this debate, we analyze litigant status at the Supreme Court’s agenda-setting stage. Using archival data from the articles of Justice Blackmun, we find that litigant status influences the Court’s decision making but that the nature of the effect can be mitigated by the interplay between a justice’s ideology and the presence of interest group support.

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