Brigham Young University Journal of Public Law


In assessing how social forces may shape U.S. Supreme Court Justices’ decision-making it has been presumed that there is a singular public opinion and that this opinion affects each individual Justice in largely the same fashion. We suggest that it is more likely the case that Justices’ world views are informed and shaped by a myriad of social concerns and group identities upon which the Justices structure and process their experiences and develop and refine their personal schemas. While some have already begun to question the proposition of a monolithic public opinion influence on judicial behavior and have begun to think carefully about what we term the “micro-publics” that may inform Supreme Court Justices’ decision-making, the more tangible questions of whether Justices respond to publics that are distinguishable from broad-based national public opinion and what those micro-publics might be remain largely unanswered. Our study focuses on the potential influence of localized and personal micro-publics and the possibility of partisan-based elite influence on judicial behavior. We test our hypotheses by analyzing the voting record of Supreme Court Justices on civil liberties cases from 1977 to 2003 and find encouraging initial support for our theory.


© 2013 BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School