Agenda Setting and Attention to Precedent in the US Federal Courts


To what degree is judicial agenda setting top-down or bottom-up? Existing studies lack evidence of the frequency or magnitude of these two processes. We conceptualize the judicial agenda as the legal questions/rules receiving judicial attention, measure it using citations to Supreme Court opinions, and estimate vector autoregression models to identify how each level of court initiates or responds to variation in attention to precedent at other levels of the judiciary. The Supreme Court exerts some top-down control, but agenda setting is more often bottom-up, revealing lower courts are more integral to setting the federal judicial agenda than previously understood.

Journal of Law and Courts 9(2): 233-260
JBrandon Duck-Mayr
JBrandon Duck-Mayr
Assistant Professor of Government

I research American political institutions, with a particular focus on judicial decision making and the role of law in judicial politics.