Executive discretion, judicial decision making, and separation of powers in the united states

Clifford J. Carrubba, Christopher Jon Zorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


Existing work on the U.S. separation of powers typically views the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional and statutory disputes. By contrast, much comparative work explicitly recognizes the role of executives in enforcing and implementing court decisions. Drawing on that work, this study relaxes the assumption that executives must comply with Supreme Court rulings, and instead allows the propensity for executive compliance to depend upon indirect enforcement by the public. We develop a simple model of Supreme Court decision making in the presence of executive discretion over compliance and demonstrate that such discretion can restrict substantially the Courts decision making. Using data collected for the Warren and Burger courts, we find evidence consistent with the argument that the Supreme Courts ability to constrain exective descretion depends critically upon the public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)812-824
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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