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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: August 2020

1 - The Guardians of Judicial Independence


Chapter 1 sets the scholarly and popular context for explaining how citizens evaluate the United States Supreme Court. It conceptualizes the core outcome of interest throughout the book: public support for Court-curbing, or alterations to the Supreme Court’s powers, structures, and institutional arrangements. We compare this concept to judicial independence and judicial power, and we distinguish it from institutional legitimacy. Chapter 1 also makes important connections to the institutions literature, explaining how a politicized foundation to Court-curbing represents a constraint on judicial independence. We characterize core debates in the scholarly literature centering on “policy (or outcome) versus process.” Policy-based perspectives posit that citizen agreement or disagreement with the Court’s rulings or policy direction will influence support for Court-curbing. Process-based perspectives suggest that non-policy factors such as democratic values, perceptions that the Court is fair and impartial (as opposed to politicized), and knowledge and awareness (via a “positivity bias”) all serve to enhance institutional support for the Court.

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