TitleActivism, Ideology, and Federalism: Judicial Behavior in Constitutional Challenges Before the Rehnquist Court, 1986-2000
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSolberg, R, Lindquist, SA
JournalJournal of Empirical Legal Studies
Pagination237 - 261
Date Published2006
ISBN Number1740-1453

In this study, we evaluate the individual voting behavior of the justices on the Rehnquist Court in cases raising constitutional challenges to federal, state, and local legislation. Using activism, federalism, and ideology as our guiding principles, we evaluate the extent to which the justices' voting behavior is consistent with the conventional wisdom that conservatives are more restraintist and more likely to protect states' rights in conformity with Chief Justice Rehnquist's focus on federalism. Although we find that there is some correlation between judicial ideology and activism, with liberals more activist than conservatives in general, we also find that the conservative wing of the Rehnquist Court is also largely guided by its own ideological reaction to the substantive policy embodied in the laws at issue. Thus, conservative justices as well as liberals are likely to strike down state laws when those laws fail to conform to the ideological preferences. This result underscores the importance of the attitudinal model of judicial behavior as an explanation of voting patterns on the Court, regardless of the justices' rhetoric in favor of judicial restraint or states' rights.