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Lee Epstein
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Lee Epsteing Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor

DYNAMIC AGENDA-SETTING ON THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: AN EMPIRICAL ASSESSMENT
Published in 2002. Harvard Journal on Legislation 39: 395-433. (Revised version of papers presented at the 1997 meeting of the Conference Group on the Scientific Study of Judicial Politics and the 1997 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.)

Lee Epstein
Jeffrey A. Segal
Jennifer Nicoll Victor

Because agenda setting is one of the most important activities undertaken by Supreme Court justices, it is hardly surprising to find a rather large body of literature devoted to how they go about performing this task. What is surprising is that the bulk of the agenda-setting literature views the justices in isolation, establishing their own policy priorities with little attention to the preferences and likely actions of actors in other political institutions.

Based on a strategic account of agenda setting, we call for a reexamination of this position. Specifically, we argue that Supreme Court justices may be attentive to the preferences and likely actions of members of other political institutions when they go about establishing their agendas, if they hope to maximize their preferences. Because our findings support this claim, we conclude that studies of Court agenda setting, which do not take account of constraints imposed by actors in other institutions, may ignore the realities of the American separation of powers system. 

Click here for the article (.pdf).
Click here for the Conference Group paper (.pdf).
Click here for the Midwest paper (.pdf).
Click here for the data.