Lee Epstein
Lee Epsteing Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor
Published in 1991. In The American Courts: A Critical Assessment, ed. John B. Gates and Charles A. Johnson. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

Lee Epstein

The introduction is below; click here for the chapter (.pdf).


In the fall of 1969, Justice Hugo Black received a visit from an old friend, Thomas G. (“Tommy the Cork”) Corcoran.  Black and Corcoran had known each other since the 1930s when they were “zealous advocated of the New Deal”; Black had even hired Corcoran’s daughter, Margaret, as a law clerk.  Lately, though, the relationship had taken a turn for the worse.  Black had nothing but disdain for Corcoran’s present occupation, as a lobbyist for organizations and corporate interests.

Nevertheless, Black was please to see his old acquaintance.  At least he was until Corcoran revealed the purpose of his visit—to put in a good word for a corporation seeking a rehearing from the Supreme Court.  As the story goes (Woodward and Armstrong 1979, 79-85), Black was shocked and dismayed; he regarded as taboo any mention of a pending case to a sitting justice of the Court.  He banished Corcoran from his office and from his life, the relationship irreparably damaged.

What Black’s reaction to Corcoran’s visit suggests, of course, is that judges consider themselves about the ordinary pressure tactics used by groups to influence elected officials.  Though lobbyists line the corridors of the Capitol to converse with members of Congress, such is not the case in the Marble Palace, the Supreme Court building.  The rules of the legal game simply prohibit direct encounters.

Hence, if interest groups wish to influence the outcomes of legal disputes, they must find alternative routes of “lobbying,” routes that correspond to the norms of the judiciary.  In this chapter, we explore the various strategies groups have developed to affect judicial decision making, as well several related aspects of interest group litigation: the frequency of group participation, the sorts of organizations most typically found in judicial corridors, the types of issues engendering group interest, and the question of efficacy: Are their efforts successful?  First, though we consider several issues endemic to the study of group litigation: the development of this line of inquiry and its place within the large study of group politics.