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Judicial Review as a Response to Political Posturing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 May 2011

Yale University
Harvard University
Justin Fox is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Yale University, ISPS, P.O. Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520. (
Matthew C. Stephenson is Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Griswold 509, Cambridge, MA 02138. (


We use an agency model to analyze the impact of judicial review on the incentives of elected leaders to “posture” by enacting bold but ill-advised policies. We find that judicial review may exacerbate posturing by rescuing leaders from the consequences of unwise policies, but may also discourage posturing by alerting voters to unjustified government action. We further find that judges will defer to the decision of elected leaders unless posturing is sufficiently likely. We then show how judicial review affects voter welfare, both through its effect on policy choice and through its effect on the efficacy of the electoral process in selecting leaders. We also analyze how the desirability of judicial review is affected by characteristics of the leaders and the judges.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2011

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