The Influence of Congressional Preferences on Legislative Overrides of Supreme Court Decisions

Alicia Uribe, James F. Spriggs, Thomas G. Hansford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Studies of Court-Congress relations assume that Congress overrides Court decisions based on legislative preferences, but no empirical evidence supports this claim. Our first goal is to show that Congress is more likely to pass override legislation the further ideologically removed a decision is from pivotal legislative actors. Second, we seek to determine whether Congress rationally anticipates Court rejection of override legislation, avoiding legislation when the current Court is likely to strike it down. Third, most studies argue that Congress only overrides statutory decisions. We contend that Congress has an incentive to override all Court decisions with which it disagrees, regardless of their legal basis. Using data on congressional overrides of Supreme Court decisions between 1946 and 1990, we show that Congress overrides Court decisions with which it ideologically disagrees, is not less likely to override when it anticipates that the Court will reject override legislation, and acts on preferences regardless of the legal basis of a decision. We therefore empirically substantiate a core part of separation-of-powers models of Court-Congress relations, as well as speak to the relative power of Congress and the Court on the ultimate content of policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-945
Number of pages25
JournalLaw and Society Review
Volume48
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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