Judicial Politics in Polarized Times
Drawing on a sweeping survey of litigation on abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, and gun rights across the Clinton, Bush, and Obama eras, Thomas M. Keck argues that, while each of these stories captures part of the significance of judicial politics in polarized times, each is also misleading. Despite judges’ claims, actual legal decisions are not the politically neutral products of disembodied legal texts. But neither are judges “tyrants in robes,” undermining democratic values by imposing their own preferences. Just as often, judges and the public seem to be pushing in the same direction. As for the argument that the courts are powerless institutions, Keck shows that their decisions have profound political effects. And, while advocates on both the left and right engage constantly in litigation to achieve their ends, neither side has consistently won. Ultimately, Keck argues, judges respond not simply as umpires, activists, or political actors, but in light of distinctive judicial values and practices.
Introduction Three Stories about Courts
Part I Rights on the Left, and Rights on the Right
One Rights on the Left
Two Rights on the Right
Part II Courts, Democracy, and Policy Change
Three Are Judges Umpires?
Four Are Judges Tyrants?
Five Are Judges Sideshows?
Conclusion Judicial Politics in Polarized Times
Appendix A Coding Procedures for Polarization Analysis
Online at /sites/keck /
Appendix B Judicial Decisions Coded for Polarization Analysis
Appendix C Congressional Votes Coded for Polarization Analysis