Law | Science

August 22, 2007

Friends of the Court, with Benefits

Professor Paul Collins tells Gelf how he used statistics to understand the true power of amicus curiae briefs on the Supreme Court.

J. Michelangelo Stein

Quaint, anachronistic, perhaps extinct. Is this the state of the so-called "public-intellectual"? It would be easy to launch into a jeremiad lamenting the sad reality that Christopher Hitchens is postmodernity's answer to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Instead, Gelf plans to introduce you to those wonks who are doing important work but are perhaps too trepid to have engaged the general public themselves. Every month or so, we'll drag a young academic out from his unendowed folding-chair of assistant-professordom (should he even be so lucky) to talk to us about his research.

Our inaugural interviewee, Paul Collins, was an obvious choice. Not only did his work earn him the prestigious CGS/UMl Distinguished Dissertation Award (trust me, you don't want the full name) but his research is also exceedingly relevant to followers of American politics and law (American Political Science Association). Collins's dissertation, entitled "Friends of the Supreme Court: Examining the Influence of Interest Groups in the U.S. Supreme Court, 1946-2001," takes an exhaustive look at a half-century of amicus briefs penned by various interest groups and demonstrates their surprising sway. While justices have their own leanings toward a case, Collins found that they buttress their opinions with information from more policy-oriented briefs and adopt a greater sensitivity to those whom their opinion might impact most.

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- Law
- posted on Aug 22, 07

nice article

Article by J. Michelangelo Stein

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