Law, Legislation, And Democracy: Cooperation And Contestation Between Congress, The Supreme Court, And The Executive In The Determination Of Statutory Meaning

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In this dissertation, I examine the conditions under which various models of the American State can best explain the lawmaking process, which is centered upon, and must contend with, the separation-of-powers framework. I challenge the hegemonic claims of two of the main theories of state behavior, what I label as the Democracy Model, drawn from pluralism, and the Competitive/Institutional Model, grounded in rational choice theory. To do so, I lay out the conditions for a new model, the StateCentered/Cooperative Model, which assumes a more cooperative spirit of behavior by state actors as they seek to govern and enhance the legitimacy of their own institutions and the state as a whole. The conditions that give rise to these competing, and complementary, models of state behavior are theorized in the initial chapters, while the remainder of the dissertation offers strong empirical support for the presence of this new State-Centered/Cooperative Model. Through the creation of two unique and original databases on congressional-court interactions, I demonstrate the frequent and routine interactions between Congress and the courts through a detailed examination of legislation that I refer to as "reaction bills." These bills are defined by the distinct fact that they, at least in part, represent specific congressional responses to court decisions. One of the key observations to emerge from this data is the communicative nature of the relationship between Congress and the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court, and the attention given by members of Congress to the views of the Court and the Executive Branch in deciding what cases warrant further congressional action. This point is further confirmed by a second database including all of the Supreme i Court's statutory decisions between the 1986 and 1995 terms. Relying on these two original databases, I deploy a series of event duration empirical models to examine the conditions under which Congress is most likely to react to Supreme Court decisions. The results of this analysis reveal a strong relationship between "signals" from the Judicial and Executive branches identifying specific concerns over a particular statutory framework and subsequent actions by Congress to overturn, modify, or codify those laws. ii

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Congress; Supreme Court; Overrides; Separation-of-Powers; Governance; Institutional Behavior; Lawmaking


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Lowi, Theodore J

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Enns, Peter
Bensel, Richard F
Hockett, Robert C.

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Ph. D., Government

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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