Rules of Access: Congress, the Federal Courts, and Judicial Agenda-setting and Change
Greenfest, Seth Walker
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What explains variation over the issues federal courts examine over time? Adopting an interbranch approach, I argue that this variation is a function of changes in rules of access. Rules of access govern whether litigants can use the federal courts and are set by both lawmakers and judges. I focus on two rules of access - jurisdiction and standing. During the legislative process, lawmakers decide how to grant policy-making authority to federal courts through rules of access. Open access encourages litigants to use the federal courts. These decisions create statutory environments that shape the federal courts' agendas. I examine how Congress varies jurisdiction and standing. Using original data of Public Laws that grant jurisdiction to the federal district courts and Public Laws that confer standing on potential litigants, I explain how rules of access for the federal courts have changed over time and across policy issues. I present a theory that links changes in rules of access to the courts' agendas in that Congress makes antecedent decisions that influence which issues are presented to the federal courts. I employ both quantitative and qualitative methods to demonstrate the relationship between rules of access and judicial agendas.
- Political science