Friday, March 31, 2006
Nancy C. Staudt (Washington University, moving to Northwestern) presents Auditing the Court: Congressional Oversight of Supreme Court Decision-Making at Georgetown today as part of its Law & Economics Workshop Series. Here is the Conclusion:
Recent academic studies have shown that Congress pays a surprising amount of attention to Supreme Court decision-making. In this paper, we investigated this Court- Congress dynamic in the economic context, and specifically in the field of taxation. We found that Congress actively monitors the Court and that monitoring is associated with codification proposals, override proposals, and “position-taking” activities. These findings suggest that the extant literature on Court-Congress relations, which focuses solely on the override process, seriously underestimates the amount of time and energy that legislators spend on Court-related issues.
In order to explain why Congress engages in these oversight activities, as well as the speed and frequency with which oversight takes place, we collected data on economic, political, and case-related factors that we hypothesized would explain congressional activity. We found that when the deficit is high, when amicus curiae file briefs with the Court, when the justices invite a congressional response, and when congressional politics are aligned with those of the Court—the likelihood of oversight increases at statistically significant levels. Although these findings are preliminary and much more diagnostic work must be done, they do provide insight into congressional motives never before explored in the literature.