BLACK AND BLUE: HOW AFRICAN AMERICANS JUDGE THE U.S. LEGAL SYSTEM

Vol. 30 No. 2 (February 2020) pp. 30-33

BLACK AND BLUE: HOW AFRICAN AMERICANS JUDGE THE U.S. LEGAL SYSTEM, by James L. Gibson and Michael J. Nelson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. 220pp. Cloth $99.95. ISBN: 9780190865214. 224pp. Paper $29.95. ISBN: 9780190865221.

Reviewed by Eric N. Waltenburg, Department of Political Science, Purdue University. Email: ewaltenb@purdue.edu.

James L. Gibson and his various coauthors have contributed mightily to political science’s understanding of the concept of legal legitimacy. And in BLACK AND BLUE, Gibson and Michael J. Nelson add to this already considerable body of research by systematically analyzing the attitudes of black Americans toward the U.S. legal system. A key empirical assumption they make and confirm is that black Americans are not monolithic; they differ in their personal and vicarious experiences with legal authorities and in their group attachments and consciousness. Importantly, these intra-racial differences affect the structure of black attitudes toward the justice system. Grounding their analysis in positivity theory, Gibson and Nelson find that the symbols of legal authority have different effects depending upon experiences and group identities. For some black Americans, judicial symbols evoke positive, legitimacy-enhancing attitudes, which protect the Court’s legitimacy from disappointing decisions and militate for the acceptance or at least toleration of unpopular rulings. Yet for many blacks, the symbols of judicial authority seem to be associated more with social control and repression. For these black Americans, exposure to symbols of judicial authority depress legal legitimacy, and this leads to perhaps the most important theoretical take-away from their analysis: positivity theory is in need of some modification. Contrary to the conventional “to know the courts is to love them” mantra, symbols of judicial authority do not have a uniformly positive effect. Exposure to the symbols stimulates preexisting attitudes and associations. While for some these associations are generally positive, for others the symbols may be linked to more negative perceptions of social control and repression (p. 170f).

Gibson and Nelson’s objective in BLACK AND BLUE is much broader than a test of positivity theory upon a representative sample of black Americans. As they put it, “Our overarching purpose in this book is to describe and analyze the ways that black Americans relate to law and legal institutions” (p. 5). And to that [*31] end, they present five empirical chapters that explore black attitudes toward different aspects of the U.S. legal system. They begin with an analysis that they admit is a bit one-off since it concerns inter-racial differences in diffuse support for the Supreme Court (“Diffuse support” or institutional legitimacy is the enduring belief among the public that an institution has the “authoritative mandate to make policies" (Clawson and Waltenburg 2009, 5; see also Easton 1965, 273; Caldeira and Gibson 1992, 637)). Using data from the nationally representative Freedom and Tolerance Surveys, they show that black (and Hispanic) levels of diffuse support for the Court are significantly lower than white levels of diffuse support. A multivariate analysis of the predictors of diffuse support suggests this is due to a much weaker relationship between diffuse support for the Court and democratic values among blacks than whites.

Given the importance of group identities and experiences to their analysis, Gibson and Nelson then turn to a systematic exploration of those concepts. Here they draw on their survey of a nationally representative sample of black Americans, which contains data on blacks’ “racial identities, … experiences with law enforcement, and … support for the legal system” (p. 51f). (This is the dataset they use for the remainder of their empirical analyses.) They find that a nontrivial proportion of black Americans have had recent experiences with legal authorities that they perceive as unfair and that blacks are not uniform in the degree to which they identify themselves as black or think of their fate as closely connected to the fate of other black Americans. Finally, Gibson and Nelson demonstrate that personal and vicarious experiences, group attachment and consciousness are each distinct concepts.

Turning to whether perceptions of fairness regarding the justice system affect Supreme Court legitimacy, they find no direct effect. However, they show that group identities and group consciousness have powerful conditioning effects on the relationship between perceptions of system fairness and the Supreme Court’s legitimacy. For blacks with high levels of group consciousness, there is a strong link between perceptions of fairness of the justice system and Supreme Court legitimacy. To put it concretely, black Americans with a strong sense of linked fate are more apt to see a close association between their perceptions of system fairness and Court legitimacy. Meanwhile, for blacks with low group attachments, there is also a positive relationship between system fairness and Supreme Court legitimacy, but this effect disappears among blacks with high levels of group attachment. [*32]

COLONIAL LIVES OF PROPERTY: LAW, LAND, AND RACIAL REGIMES OF OWNERSHIP

Vol. 30 No. 2 (February 2020) pp. 25-29

COLONIAL LIVES OF PROPERTY: LAW, LAND, AND RACIAL REGIMES OF OWNERSHIP, by Brenna Bhandar. Durham and London. Duke University Press, 2018. 265pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-0-8223-7146-5

Reviewed by Maria Monica Parada-Hernandez, Department of Political Science, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, State University of New York at Albany. Email: mparada@albany.edu.

The history of white colonialist dispossession seems to have no end. At present, peasant and ethnic groups dispute rights over a land they claim as their own and face the giants of the state and the private sector who do not hesitate use violence, disguised as law, to eliminate – and in some cases extinguish – these groups. The nineteenth-century heritage of land administration currently operates through much more sophisticated mechanisms that attempt to erase the racial, class and gender origins of disputes over natural resources. The book COLONIAL LIVES OF PROPERTY: LAW, LAND, AND RACIAL REGIMES OF OWNERSHIP by Brenna Bhandar is a reminder of what path we have traveled to reach this point and why it is important to think of ways to stop it.

The central argument that guides Bhandar's research is that modern property law developed along with and through colonial modes of appropriation and accumulation. According to Bhandar, the mechanisms and techniques through which modern property law operates, including legislation, legal judgments and everyday practices, are closely related to the formation of racialized legal subjects. The result of this process is what she calls "racial regimes of ownership": a concept that, inspired by Cedric Robinson's (2007) theory of racial regimes, explains why it is not possible to understand the notions of “race,” “ownership” and “property” in isolation, and instead must be considered in relation to each other.

Bhandar's analysis falls between Marxist and post-colonial studies, two approaches that allow her to denounce the complicity of the law in maintaining economic inequality (a topic that contemporary property theorists have already thoroughly studied) through the creation of racial subjects. Consequently, the author explores the relationship between race and property rights from the reconstruction of the political and philosophical bases of private property law in four colonial settings: British Columbia, South Australia, and Israel/Palestine. [*26]

The selection of case studies is curious. Bhandar explores the colonization process in four different places and historical moments without clearly establishing the methodology for choosing the cases. Her objective with the case studies is to identify specific legal forms of land appropriation in different property regimes – specifically common law and Zionist philosophy – and then trace their legal nature in order to show that the temporalities of colonialism are multiple and uneven. In other words, juridical forms appear in different times and spaces and there is no guarantee that “a given articulation of race and property ownership will appear in the same configuration across time or jurisdiction” (p.12). Thus, the cases used in the study adequately illustrate the existence of racial regimes of property, but questions about the selection of cases and how they relate to each other remain unanswered.

Bhandar uses four sources of information in her analysis: (i) the writings of political economists such as William Petty (famous for his contributions to technologies for the measurement of land and productivity) John Locke and Joseph Trutch, who, since the XVII century, inspired the Commonwealth legislation; (ii) secondary literature that contributes both to the study of the cases and to the understanding of the legal concepts related to property rights; (iii) legal norms and official documents issued by the colonial governments studied; and (iv) judicial cases that contribute to understanding how the legal subjects were shaped and their relationship with ownership to this day.

RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY: WHY THE SUPREME COURT IS NOT THE LAST WORD ON THE CONSTITUTION

Vol. 30 No. 2 (February 2020) pp. 18-24

RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY: WHY THE SUPREME COURT IS NOT THE LAST WORD ON THE CONSTITUTION, by Louis Fisher. University Press of Kansas, 2019. 288pp. Cloth $45.00. ISBN: 978-0700628100.

Reviewed by Esra Gules-Guctas, Department of Political Science, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, State University of New York at Albany. Email: egules-guctas@albany.edu.

Conventional wisdom holds that when the "Supreme Court has spoken," the conversation must end. Judicial finality is often cited to point out that the Supreme Court of the United States has established supremacy over contested constitutional questions. Yet the notion of unaccountable judicial elites having the final say on constitutional meaning remains subject to considerable debate. The spectrum of scholarly opinion ranges from those who maintain that “practice has now settled” (Dworkin, 1996) and “we live in a world of judicial supremacy,”( Freidman and Delaney, 2011) to those who lament that that “everyone nowadays seems willing to accept the [Supreme] Court’s word as final”(Kramer, 2004).

In RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY, Fisher explores whether the Supreme Court does in fact speak the irrefutable last word. After examining the historical record from 1789 to the present day, he finds that Court decisions are anything but final. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Court’s rulings did not put an end to constitutional dialogues in many disputes. He concludes that “the doctrine of judicial finality often attains the status of myth: a belief widely held to be true but lacking any factual basis” (p. xi). Fisher presents a compelling analysis that demonstrates that the Supreme Court decisions have been regularly challenged in extensive array of disputes. The author devotes a separate chapter for the disputes on the slavery, civil rights and women’s rights, regulating commerce, the sole-organ doctrine, privacy, religious liberty, the Japanese-American cases, the state secrets doctrine, legislative vetoes and campaign finance. According to Fisher, decisions by the Supreme Court lack finality in part “because human institutions, including the judiciary, are prone to miscalculation and error” (p. xi).

The crux of Fisher’s argument in RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY is that by no means does the Court always gets its way. Furthermore, the preoccupation with the notion of judicial finality has become a set of theoretical blinders, rendering the fact that the Court shares the field of constitutional authority with other [*19] institutional actors invisible. One of the key contributions of RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY is how it persuasively demonstrates that despite the prevailing assumptions, the process of constitutional interpretation is not a judicial monopoly but rather a broad and continuing dialogue. In this regard, RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY invaluably draws attention to what has been missing from the debate on the desirability of having a judiciary with the final say on constitutional meaning. Participants in the debate dispute whether an imperial judiciary with the power to have the final say is necessary, but not whether the Court actually has the irrefutable final say. In other words, scholars who juxtapose the Court’s power against Congress have erroneously overemphasized the Court’s dominance while unduly minimizing the constitutional decision-making by Congress.

Readers familiar with Fisher’s previous scholarly contributions can easily recognize that RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY shares a common theme of unveiling the myriad ways in which the political branches actually do influence constitutional meaning and how independent interpretation by elected branches has been the norm in our political order (see e.g., Fisher, 1978, 1985, 1988, 2016, 2018). In accordance with his previous works, RECONSIDERING JUDICIAL FINALITY demonstrates that Congress often challenges the limits of the Supreme Court decisions.

I concur with Fisher’s claim that the constitutional vision of the judiciary always triumphing is not empirically accurate. As he explains, the process of constitutional interpretation is much more fluid than generally assumed. However, with any book of such scope a reviewer can find numerous occasions to quibble. And I do have a few quibbles, primary of which is an objection to Fisher's framing of legislative-judiciary relations through a primarily conflictual lens. Looking only at cases in which the Court’s decisions have been challenged and reversed captures a relatively small proportion of interactions between the judiciary and the political actors. In fact, attaching too much weight to the Court’s conflict with elected branches minimizes observations of cooperation (explicit and tacit) between them. Ample scholarly work demonstrates that judicial review can actually help legislators advance their political agendas rather than hindering the exercise of legislative power; in fact the Court’s authority to settle constitutional disputes often expands as a result of the willful empowerment of the judiciary by actors in other branches (see e.g. Graber 1993; Whittington 2009). [*20]

U.S. ATTORNEYS, POLITICAL CONTROL, AND CAREER AMBITION

Vol. 30 No. 1 (January 2020) pp. 12-17

U.S. ATTORNEYS, POLITICAL CONTROL, and CAREER AMBITION, by Banks Miller and Brett Curry. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. 201pp. Cloth $64.00. ISBN: 978019092824.

Reviewed by Virginia Hettinger, Department of Political Science. University of Connecticut. Email: virginia.hettinger@uconn.edu.

U.S. ATTORNEYS, POLITICAL CONTROL, and CAREER AMBITION offers a well written and extensively researched account of the complexity and fundamentally political nature of the work and careers of United States Attorneys (USAs). The authors combine well-placed stories of USAs, compelling arguments for employing various theoretical lenses, and rigorous quantitative approaches to explore case filing decisions, sentencing outcomes, and post-USA career moves. It is an ambitious work. Perhaps, in places, too ambitious for the space available. The result is that the reader ends up sometimes frustrated, but always more curious, about the subject and leaving your reader more interested and more curious is a good problem to have. 

Banks Miller and Brett Curry begin by telling two stories that illustrate the discretion that U.S. Attorneys enjoy in implementing the enforcement of federal law. Both examples prove to be cautionary because they end with Supreme Court reversing parts of both convictions and criticizing the excessive prosecutorial zeal present in both cases. The rest of the introduction provides a brief history of U.S. Attorneys. The history again emphasizes the discretion that U.S. Attorneys possess but also notes that leaders in the Department of Justice (DOJ) have sought greater control and increased centralization since the DOJ was created in 1870. 

The second chapter of the book provides three more extensive case studies to illustrate efforts at centralizing control over USAs. The first focuses on the Reconstruction period and efforts by the president and other executive branch figures to increase the enforcement of civil rights. The emergence of the DOJ in 1870 led to increased centralization, greater emphasis on prioritizing some types of prosecutions for electoral purposes, and increased politicization of who would serve as USAs. The second case study focuses on the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Congress and the DOJ played key roles in driving the prosecution of financial fraud by strengthening statutes and providing additional resources to USA offices. The last case study examines [*13] the George W. Bush administration’s dismissal of nine USAs in 2006. Miller and Curry conclude that “both political circumstances and performance metrics were predictive of the USAs who are ultimately directed to resign” (p. 39). In this chapter, Miller and Curry begin to describe those who attempt to control USAs as principals from a principal-agent theory perspective. 

Chapter 3 provides a thorough and careful explanation of principal-agent theory. Drawing on the narratives in Chapters 1 and 2, Miller and Curry make a compelling case for the value of principal-agent theory in understanding U.S. Attorneys. They begin by establishing that U.S. Attorneys face multiple principals. At the national level, Congress and the executive branch act as principals attempting to control the behavior of the U.S. Attorneys. Local officials, District Court judges, and local political ideologies may also influence U.S. Attorneys. The authors also identify the ways principals might convey their goals to the USAs including presidential statements and Congressional oversight hearings. Additionally, Miller and Curry identify other important factors in the federal criminal prosecution. The complexity of cases is not constant across all issue areas, which makes it more difficult for principals to monitor USAs in some issue areas. There are also multiple ways to measure whether U.S. Attorneys are adhering to the priorities of their various principals. Miller and Curry describe outputs and outcomes; outputs are defined as the “the effort made in filing cases” (p. 52) while outcomes are captured by monitoring convictions or sentence length. Finally, Miller and Curry introduce ambition theory. U.S. Attorneys recognize the short-term nature of their position as U.S. Attorneys. Some USAs might seek vertical advancement (movement to higher level positions within the executive branch) and others might seek diagonal advancement (movement to high prestige positions in the private sector). Diagonal career goals might increase a U.S. Attorney’s propensity to shirk the priorities of national principals. By the end of the chapter Miller and Curry have created a rich and convincing framework for understanding the behavior of USAs. The authors paint a picture of legal professionals with their own beliefs and priorities who may be monitored and constrained by principals at the local and national level. The USAs enforce the law across a wide range of legal issues with varying levels of complexity in terms of both obtaining convictions and the feasibility of successful monitoring. They do all of this with varying long-term career goals and the understanding that their short- and long-term success can be conditioned by these factors and the interactions of these factors. [*14]

Chapter 4 explains the major data sources. Miller and Curry use DOJ data compiled in the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse, the Public Papers of the President, and their own data on post tenure placements. They provide descriptive statistics and graphical displays of variations in the five issue areas-immigration, narcotics, terrorism, weapons, and white-collar crime. They assess each issue area for workload, and define expectations for salience, complexity, and ideological preferences in each issue area. Case filings and sentence length are examined cross sectionally and over time. Narcotics cases make up the biggest portion of the case load even though drug enforcement jurisdiction overlaps with state jurisdiction. Terrorism is the smallest. Immigration caseloads vary greatly by district. Immigration, narcotics, and weapons cases showed increasing centralization over time. Terrorism and white-collar cases showed a decrease in centralization over time.



CONSERVATIVE INNOVATORS: HOW STATES ARE CHALLENGING FEDERAL POWER

Vol. 30 No. 1 (January 2020) pp. 6-11



CONSERVATIVE INNOVATORS: HOW STATES ARE CHALLENGING FEDERAL POWER, by Ben Merriman. University of Chicago Press, 2019. 232pp. Cloth $105.00. ISBN: 9780226620312.

Reviewed by Benjamin Kassow, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of North Dakota. Email: Benjamin.kassow@und.edu.

Overall, Benjamin Merriman’s book CONSERVATIVE INNOVATORS: HOW STATES ARE CHALLENGING FEDERAL POWER is a must read for three reasons. First, the book describes in considerable detail and nuance a recent change in intergovernmental relations; that is, the ability and interest of states to be able to effectively defy the federal government-federal bureaucracy, in particular against policies created by the executive branch that they may not agree with. Second, the book lays out an interesting discussion as to why these changes have largely occurred in the past ten to fifteen years. Third, the book contains three rich examples of areas of policy where conservative state executives have attempted to retrieve power from the federal government: the Balanced Budget Amendment, an increasing role for states with regard to voter rights, and a wide variety of policies, focusing most broadly on the Office of the Repealer in Kansas under the Brownback administration.

As is the norm, the first chapter focuses primarily on addressing the proverbial “so-what” question, and why readers should care about the rest of the book. This chapter centers around how recent history has changed the relationship between the federal government and state governments by addressing the historical relationship between the federal government and state governments over an extended period of time. It also discusses federal governmental issues that encouraged an increase of power to the executive branch, resulting in increased degrees of Congressional delegation to the executive branch (Kerwin and Furlong 2011) and a larger focus on the federal budget as a primary issue for Congress to address (see Sinclair 2011). The chapter concludes by laying out what will be discussed in the remaining chapters in a rather extensive way. [*7]

The second chapter builds off Chuck Epp’s conceptual idea of the importance of support structures for creating legal change, but shifts it in a rather different direction compared with THE RIGHTS REVOLUTION (Epp 1998). Merriman argues that three changes to conservative legal support structures in recent decades have made it easier to implement legal change, stating early in Chapter 2 that, “Whenever there has been intergovernmental friction or disagreement in recent years, multi-state litigation has rarely been far behind” (p. 30). Merriman notes the critical importance of multi-state litigation and an increased degree of professionalization in state attorney general (SAG) offices for allowing this movement towards challenging the validity and/or applicability of federal regulations and executive orders. Additionally, the Supreme Court in recent years has become increasingly receptive to limiting precedents such as CHEVRON that grant a relatively high discretion to federal agencies with regards to rulemaking in the absence of a clear Congressional mandate (see MASSACHUSETTS V. EPA, 2007, as an example of this). Finally, with more Republicans controlling SAG offices in states, an increased availability of resources towards conservative movements is now available compared to the past, when more of these offices were controlled by Democrats. This general framework makes sense and is not one that is restricted to one party (Democrats could use these same tools and advantages into the future).

Chapter 3 conceptualizes state “defiance” towards federalism, in what Merriman terms “uncooperative federalism.” While the chapter highlights to a large extent on how states have defied federal policy both by refusing federal dollars to implement desired policy and through the creation of interstate compacts, the chapter focuses more so on how interstate compacts facilitate things like multi-state litigation and serve as coordinating tools for states to work together. The book discusses a variety of recent examples of interstate compacts (some relatively controversial, others less so), but ultimately chooses to narrow in on the Compact for a Balanced Budget in the most detail. While I found this portion of the book to be interesting, I think perhaps including another in-depth example or two would have been helpful to provide the reader with a better sense of how these compacts are being used. However, the discussion of the Compact for a Balanced Budget is highly nuanced and essentially concludes that the compact requires minimal state resources, allows for easy coordination, and engenders little organized opposition due to it [*8] largely having a low degree of visibility. Interstate compacts also have several advantages over other state-based methods of organization, given that governors can veto the attempted removal of a state from a compact and are explicitly seen as a constitutionally valid method of organization in the U.S. Constitution. The discussion in Chapter 3 is quite compelling and lays out a strong conceptual map as to how states can systematically attempt to defy federal government policy if said states do not wish to go along with federal policy.

Chapter 4 focuses on issues related to voting rights and the history of such laws in the United States. The chapter provides an interesting discussion of the history of federal regulation of regulations, beginning with the Jefferson Administration and continuing through the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), passed into law during the Clinton administration. Merriman continues by arguing that several policy and legal changes inadvertently created the conditions for state resistance of federal voting rights policy: most notably, HAVA and the Supreme Court decision, CRAWFORD V. MARION COUNTY ELECTION BOARD (2008), which upheld the constitutionality of a voter ID requirement in Indiana. Merriman shows that it has been difficult to challenge restrictions to voting passed by state legislatures for several reasons, including giving state officials less discretion how to enforce laws, and the localization and fragmentation of these laws, with federal courts generally giving states substantial leeway to create their own methods to verify who is able to legally vote, provided the laws are facially neutral (this comes from the fact that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Article 1 give the role of guaranteeing equal districts to Congress).

THE BATTLE FOR THE COURT: INTEREST GROUPS, JUDICIAL ELECTIONS, AND PUBLIC POLICY

Vol. 30 No. 1 (January 2020) pp. 1-5

THE BATTLE FOR THE COURT: INTEREST GROUPS, JUDICIAL ELECTIONS, AND PUBLIC POLICY, by Lawrence Baum, David Klein, and Matthew J. Streb. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2017. 184pp. Cloth $45.00. ISBN: 9780813940342.

Reviewed by Douglas Rice, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Email: drrice@umass.edu.

In one of the most expensive elections for a seat on a state court of last resort in the nation’s history, Sue Bell Cobb became the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Reflecting on her discomfort with the campaigning and electioneering that brought her to office, the former chief remarked, “Donors want clarity, certainty even, that the judicial candidates they support view the world as they do and will rule accordingly. To them the idea of impartial and fair judges is an abstraction. They want to know that the investments they make by donating money to a candidate will yield favorable results” (Cobb 2015 p. 59). While a rich and growing literature connects public opinion with the behavior of judges across different forms of judicial selection, far fewer connect the dots between donor mobilization, campaign outcomes, and legal outcomes.

In THE BATTLE FOR THE COURT: INTEREST GROUPS, JUDICIAL ELECTIONS, AND PUBLIC POLICY, Lawrence Baum, David Klein, and Matthew Streb come together to provide a path-breaking chronicle of these connections, from court decisions to group mobilization to campaign outcomes. Focusing on personal injury law and policy at the Supreme Court of Ohio, the authors intricately detail the connections between the decisions of justices, the reactions of business, groups, and others to those decisions in subsequent judicial elections, and the implications of these reactions for the subsequent direction of the court on that policy. Traversing the terrain across each of these separate junctures provides a unique and particularly insightful perspective on the life of the law in states with elected judges. Though the authors take care not to stake a position in the grand debate over how best to select judges, the contribution of the study provides a powerful new entry in the literature and something that advocates of judicial elections must wrestle with. The authors find that as the Supreme Court of Ohio moved policy counter to powerful, pro-defendant interests, those interests mobilized to replace unfavorable judges with those who would be favorable. In general [*2] they were quite successful at ensuring that replacement, and in time the court came to reflect the policy preferences of those powerful interests. Perhaps most importantly for those wrestling with whether elections might ensure accountability, the authors find that voters are — to an extent that is almost remarkable, in this reviewer’s opinion — unaware of the underlying reasons for mobilization and the tort law stakes of the election. Taken together, the authors demonstrate convincingly that, in the context of the new-style judicial campaign, policy outcomes outside the view of a typical voter can precipitate wholesale changes in the membership of the court, and concrete changes in legal development.

This argument motivates the structure of the book, which is a quick read. A brief introductory chapter contextualizes the work within existing judicial elections research and justifies the choice of studying judicial politics through the lens of tort outcomes on the Supreme Court of Ohio. The three subsequent chapters serve as the analytical backbone of the book, with each addressing a different link in the chain of influence that Baum, Klein, and Streb seek to unravel. Though the book is short, the structure of the book combined with concise writing packs a serious punch. Each chapter makes a clear and analytical contribution to the overarching argument. The first demonstrates shifts in the court’s favor towards business interests as a function of changes in the court’s membership; the second connects changes in favorability towards business interests to mobilization of interest groups in the election; and the third and final analytical chapter then connects mobilization with voter behavior, and voter behavior to the composition of the court, bringing us full circle. The focus on tort policy for a single state court — in a genre often marked by comparing variation in more visibly controversial policies like the death penalty across varied forms of judicial selection in the states — may initially bring pause to some, but the appropriateness and brilliance of that choice becomes clear as the authors navigate this complex chain.

In Chapter 1, the authors provide a rich history of the Ohio’s tort policies, with particular attention to the policies coming forth from the Supreme Court between 1973 and 2012. The chapter offers a combination of both rich, in-depth, descriptive analysis of the course of tort law and policy over four decades in the state of Ohio and an impressive and novel quantitative analysis of justice votes. The analyses persuasively demonstrate five eras in the court’s doctrine, with each era corresponding to large increases (1973-1980, 1985-1992, 2003-2012) and decreases (1981-1984, 1993-2002) in the proportion of pro-defendant outcomes in tort cases. [*3] Importantly, these changes closely parallel changes in the court’s membership. In order to rule out changes as a function of threatening electoral environments rather than replacement, the authors conduct a series of analyses and comparisons of voting behavior, none of which provides evidence of consistent influence of electoral pressures. Therefore, taken as a whole, the chapter demonstrates a cyclical pattern of expansion and contraction in the openness of tort policy, with those cycles a function of changes in the actual composition of the court.