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Saint Louis University Law Journal

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Supreme Court, principal agent, institutional perspective, delegation of authority


Constitutional Law | Courts | Law | Supreme Court of the United States


Professor Merrill ably demonstrates that Supreme Court decisions should be examined as the product of an inherently political institution. Observers who assert that Justices are best understood as prophets of the law are practicing an intellectual sleight of hand that allows them to ignore the non­ doctrinal factors that affect judicial behavior. Such an effort is understandable. The Court is a much more complicated subject if its rulings reflect nonlegal factors as well as legal ones. The desire, however, to ignore the true character of the Court produces accounts of its behavior that are inadequate, incorrect, or wholly without content. Legal scholars who want to explain court decisions must consider closely the analysis offered by Merrill as well as his methodology. Moreover, scholars who wish to prescribe legal rules without understanding Merrill's arguments risk folly for they fail to consider how rules are adopted and applied by courts.



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