Explaining the incidence and timing of congressional responses to the U.S. Supreme Court

Virginia A. Hettinger, Christopher Zorn

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41 Scopus citations


Sparked by interest in game-theoretic representations of the separation of powers, empirical work examining congressional overrides of Supreme Court statutory decisions has burgeoned in recent years. Much of this work has been hampered, however, by the relative rarity of such events; as has long been noted, congressional attention to the Court is limited, and most Court decisions represent the last word on statutory interpretation. With this fact foremost in our minds, we examine empirically a number of theories regarding such reversals. By adopting an approach that allows us to separate the factors that lead to the event itself (that is, the presence or absence of an override in a particular case) from those that influence the timing of the event, we find that case-specific factors are an important influence in the incidence of overrides, whereas Congress- and Court-specific political influences dominate the timing at which those overrides occur. By separating the incidence and timing of overrides, our study yields a more accurate and nuanced understanding of this aspect of the separation-of-powers system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-28
Number of pages24
JournalLegislative Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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