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Title: Reasonableness and the U.S. Supreme Court
Authors: Frost, Daniel H.
Advisors: Whittington, Keith
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Legal History
Philosophy of Law
Subjects: Law
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Why do Supreme Court justices decide cases as they do? Is the context of the creation of the U.S. Constitution relevant to how we should interpret it? How are conceptions of judicial excellence changed and maintained? These questions and others are addressed in this compendium of essays, grouped loosely around the concept of "reasonableness." "Reasonableness" is an important but under-studied concept in the evaluation of the U.S. Supreme Court. Some research on the Court has sought to explain judicial outcomes by measuring the attitudes of the members of the Court; other research has shown how the strategic incentives of the Court lead it to act a certain way. My research focuses on the background norms which discriminate between reasonable and unreasonable arguments - the implicit but shared rules which indicate which arguments should be taken seriously and which can be ignored. In the first chapter I show how certain views about "feeble-minded" persons, together with a robust view of the "police powers" of the state, worked together to produce Buck v. Bell, a case in which the Court upheld forced sterilization for persons with mental disabilities. Recent scholarship has argued that Buck was an outlier in a society that was moving away from eugenics; I show that Buck drew significantly from the standards of reasonableness of the time. In the second chapter I address a normative problem: how should we interpret the meaning of the text of the U.S. Constitution? I argue that the meaning of the text must be understood from within the legal, social, and political context in which it was created. This contextual information shows what the law accomplished and what grant of authority was created when the Constitution was ratified. In the third chapter I evaluate how Chief Justice Earl Warren's performance as a justice changed the standards by which Supreme Court justices are evaluated. I argue that Warren's tenure led to a revaluation of what aspects of judging are considered most important: after Warren, getting the right results became central and reliance on text, doctrine, and history would become less important.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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