Keeping the Outliers in Line? Judicial Review of State Laws by the U.S. Supreme Court

Matthew E.K. Hall and Ryan C. Black

Published 2013, Social Science Quarterly 94(2): 395-409 (June).


Objective. Proponents of the “regime politics” approach argue that the U.S. Supreme Court tends to serve the interests of the dominant partisan coalition even while engaging in seemingly countermajoritarian behavior. These scholars suggest that the Court’s invalidation of state laws is used to enforce a national consensus against outlier states. We argue this claim does not withstand empirical analysis. Method. We employ logistic regression analysis to evaluate the relationship between the invalidation of state laws by the Court and the ideological distance between the sitting national government and the state government that enacted the law. Results. Our analysis fails to find support for the regime enforcement hypothesis; in fact, we find evidence of a negative relationship between ideological distance and invalidation. Results. Our findings suggest that regime politics scholars have underestimated the Court’s countermajoritarian role in reviewing state legislation.

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