Student Reader

Judicial Decisions

Only a small percent of federal cases wind up in court. Many civil cases end in out-of-court settlements. In criminal cases, defendants often admit guilt and plea bargain.

Although the courts have the power to make judgments, they do not have the power to implement the policies they make. They must rely on the other branches of government for that. Judicial opinions are not always popular. Courts as institutions may appear to be countermajoritarian. Yet, a study of Supreme Court decisions shows that the Court mirrored public opinion in more than 60 percent of its decisions. (Two major exceptions are the abortion issue, where the public is sharply divided, and school prayer, where the public opposes the Court’s decisions.) The key reasons for this are that the Courts tends to defer to the law, and the law tends to mirror public opinion. Despite the controversy over the decision in the election of 2000, the Gallup Poll showed no erosion of public confidence in the Supreme Court.

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