Ideological Voting Applied to the School Desegregation Cases in the Federal Courts of Appeals from the 1960s and 1970s




The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice




This article considers four models of judicial decision-making: the legal model, the attitudinal model, the personal attributes model, and the strategic model. After describing each model, the article analyzes the decision-making of the United States Supreme Court in its opinion for Marbury v. Madison in terms of these four models. It then reports on a study of 103 United States Circuit Court cases from all Eleven Circuits in the 1960's and 70's, focusing closely on thirty-eight judges who voted on at least three panel decisions involving the issue of school desegregation, in order to test Cass Sunstein's hypotheses on the effect of judges' political ideology on case outcomes. The study's findings connote some interesting relationships in regard to the personal attributes model. The legal model and strategic model seemed to be disproved in the school desegregation study due to the fact that there was no clearly established precedent in guiding the Circuit Courts in implementing Brown in the 1960's and 70's. The future researcher will need to be careful in connoting a political party with a particular ideology.