Judicial implementation of U.S. Supreme Court fair housing decisions: An analysis of lower court decisional trends and compliance
Nye, Adam W.
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This research focuses on the judicial implementation of landmark Supreme Court fair housing decisions. It makes a theoretical and substantive contribution to the judicial implementation literature by examining both the positive and negative motivations for compliance. Major fair housing cases and the context in which they were decided are analyzed using quantitative and qualitative methods. The tools and strategies that were relied on to enforce housing segregation are each reviewed in turn. Principal-agent theory is drawn on to derive hypotheses, which are tested using data on Courts of Appeals and state supreme court decisions. The theory is based on the premise that the Supreme Court selectively monitors and sanctions the lower courts in order to create an effective principal-agent relationship. Compliance is measured on a four-part scale starting with resistance and ending with expansive compliance. The analyses show that both monitoring and sanctioning have an effect on the behavior of lower court judges. After racially restrictive zoning ordinances were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the majority of lower courts complied with the precedent. Following the racially restrictive covenant cases, state courts that were previously reversed by the Supreme Court were more likely to comply with precedent in that issue area. Monitoring by the Supreme Court increased the likelihood of Courts of Appeals panels finding in favor of claimants bringing a 42 U.S.C. 1982 suit. Compliance with Supreme Court decisions by lower court judges is the norm in the area of fair housing. Even in instances where a great deal of resistance to Supreme Court precedent would be expected, the lower courts still complied in the vast majority of cases. The threat of reversal does appear to play some role in the behavior of lower court judges, but judicial norms and socialization are also quite influential and deserve further study.
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