Social Policy-Seeking and the Supreme Court: The Effects of "Social" Case Facts on the Search and Seizure Jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court

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The Ohio State University

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The justices of the United States Supreme Court are perhaps the most powerful individual policymakers in the nation; it has therefore been imperative for political scientists to discover the decision-making process of the justices. Three models, the legal, attitudinal, and strategic models, have gained prominence among Court researchers. The attitudinal model enjoys the most robust empirical support, especially for constitutional civil-rights cases. One area of constitutional jurisprudence, the Court’s search and seizure rulings, has been extensively examined through the attitudinal model; the research to date, however, focuses on "legal" case facts as determinants, neglecting the possibility that "social" case facts, which have no bearing on the legal status of the search and seizure, might influence the decisions of the justices. My hypothesis is that these "social" facts do indeed affect the justices’ decisions in substantial and significant ways. In particular, I will focus on the effect of Drugs as items seized in a search and crimes related to drugs, which I hypothesize will have particularly substantial and significant impact on the justices' findings as to the reasonableness of the search. As to the first part of my hypothesis, "social" case facts do not appear to exercise substantial or significant effects on the justices’ decisions. Drugs as items seized and the drug Trafficking crimes are notable exceptions to the general lack of significant impact from "social" case facts, consistent with the second part of my hypothesis.



Law, Search and Seizure, Supreme Court, Attitudinal Model, Fourth Amendment