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NCJ Number: 200489 Find in a Library
Title: Rehnquist Court and Criminal Justice: An Empirical Assessment
Journal: Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice  Volume:19  Issue:2  Dated:May 2003  Pages:161-181
Author(s): Christopher E. Smith
Editor(s): Chris Eskridge
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 21
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined the decisionmaking patterns of the Rehnquist Court and its justices, and it used empirical data about the Supreme Court to look beyond the Rehnquist Court’s trends and reputation and identify less recognized underlying characteristics and developments.
Abstract: During William Rehnquist’s tenure as Supreme Court, Chief Justice, the Court has gained the reputation as a consistent supporter of expanded discretionary authority for State legislatures, prosecutors, police officers, and corrections officials. The Rehnquist Court was summarized as being conservative and advancing a diminution of constitutional rights for criminal suspects, defendants, and convicted offenders. In examining this reputation, this study analyzed Supreme Court trends based on case classifications that emulate those in the Supreme Court Judicial Data Base which provides information about legal issues and each justice’s vote for all United States Supreme Court decisions since 1953. The time period for study was selected to examine the Rehnquist Court during its era of most stable composition. The empirical examination of the Rehnquist Court’s criminal justice decisions during a 6-year period confirms the High Court’s reputation for generally supporting the Government’s position in opposition to constitutional rights claims by individual suspects, defendants, and convicted offenders. In addition, individual justices’ reactions to specific issues seem to play an important role in determining coalition shifts that produce decisions supporting individuals’ claims. However, these reactions are not the lone source of liberal outcomes. It is suggested that examinations of the reasons for the production of liberal decisions by a conservative-dominated Court must consider other potential casual factors. References and tables
Main Term(s): Judicial decisions
Index Term(s): Court personnel; Court system; Discretionary decisions; Judges; US Supreme Court decisions
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