Strategic Theory Summary

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Jennifer Barnes Bowie and Donald R. Songer (2009) examines the relevance of the strategic theory in explaining the decisions made by Court of Appeals judges. Strategic theory states that judges alter the way they vote in response to the potential reactions of other important actors. Some scholars argue that strategic theory does indeed provide reasoning for decisions made by judges on the Court of Appeals. Yet, other scholars challenge this claim and assert that there is no such evidence supporting the strategic perspective. Bowie and Songer (2009) side with the latter by concluding that the strategic theory is not a good indicator in understanding decisions made by Court of Appeals judges. Bowie and Songer arrive to this conclusion through …show more content…
In particular, judges will modify their voting patterns to help guard against the threat of reversal done by the Supreme Court. To test whether the theory holds weight or not, Bowie and Songer (2009) hypothesize that there are positive and negative case characteristics that lead to a cert being accepted or denied by the Supreme Court. The authors define positive case characteristics as: “cases that involve the interpretation of the constitution or federal statute”, “the presence of amicus curiae”, “death penalty issue”, “First amendment issue”, “presence of a dissent”, and “a conflict among circuit courts” (Bowie and Songer, 2009). Bowie and Songer (2009) hypothesize that all of these positive indicators will increase the likelihood of a Supreme Court review. Negative case characteristics are defined as cases with a “presence of a diversity issue(s)”, “claims involving ineffective assistance of counsel”, and “cases involving issues regarding weight of evidence, substantial evidence, and sufficient evidence” (Bowie and Songer, 2009). The authors argue that these indicators will have the opposite effect as the positive indicators by decreasing the likelihood of a Supreme Court review (Bowie and Songer, …show more content…
Phase I consisted of a random sample of thirty cases between the years of 1960 to 1996 as well as a sample of cases from 1925 to 1959. Phase II comprised cases from the years of 1953 to 1988 that were coded as reviewed by the Supreme Court. The authors selected all of the appeals court decisions made from 1986 to 1988 to create a sample of cases that was either reviewed or not reviewed by the Supreme Court. The independent variables used in the study were the positive and negative characteristics that were mentioned earlier. The dependent variable within the study is whether the Supreme Court reviewed the decisions made by the Court of Appeals judges (Bowie and Songer, 2009). Bowie and Songer measured the dependent variable by simply using the numbers 1 and 0. The number 1 meant that the appeals court decision was reviewed by the Supreme Court while 0 signified that the decision was not reviewed. The authors used a logistic regression to calculate the statistical significance of each independent variable. Bowie and Songer also held formal and informal interviews with 28 appeals court judges from various Courts of Appeals Circuits. During these interviews the judges were asked about their opinions on strategic theory (Bowie and Songer,

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