Skip to main content

The Structures of Interest Coalitions: Evidence from Environmental Litigation

  • Andrew B. Whitford (a1)

This paper addresses the intersection of coalition formation, judicial strategies, and regulatory politics. Coalitions are a low-cost means for assembling minority interests into more powerful blocs. However, in most cases in regulatory politics, judicial strategies are high cost efforts. I argue that coalitions among interests form one basis for judicial participation, but that participation manifests in an array of coalition “microstructures.” For any one event, the microstructure of the interest group coalition varies, but across events the coalitions take on general forms. The paper offers evidence for a variety of coalition microstructures in interest group participation as amici curiae (“friends of the court”) in cases before the United States Supreme Court. The evidence is drawn from the case of the Group of Ten, a stable, long-term coalition of environmental interest groups that operated from 1981 to 1991.

Corresponding author
1Department of Political Science, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 66044–3177. E-mail:
Hide All

Author's note: I thank the following for their suggestions about this paper: Lee Epstein, Bill Lowry, Norman Schofield, and Ken Kollman. All errors that remain are my own.

Hide All
Aranson Peter and Ordeshook Peter. 1985. “Public Interest, Private Interest, and Democratic Polity.” In The Democratic State, edited by Benjamin Roger and Elkin Stephen. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, pp. 87177.
Barker Lucius J. 1967. “Third Parties in Litigation: A Systematic View of the Judicial Function.” Journal of Politics 29 (1): 4169.
Baron David P. 2000. Business and Its Environment. Third edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Bosso Christopher J. 1991. “Adaptation and Change in the Environmental Movement.” In Interest Group Politics, edited by Cigler Allen J. and Loomis Burdett A. Third edition. Washington, DC: CQ Press, pp. 151–76.
Browne William P. 1990. “Organized Interests and Their Issue Niches: A Search for Pluralism in a Policy Domain.” The Journal of Politics 52 (2): 477509.
Buchanan James. 1965. “The Theory of Clubs.” Economica 32 (125): 114.
Cahn Robert and Dunlap Louise C. 1985. An Environmental Agenda for the Future. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Caldeira Greg and Wright John. 1988. “Organized Interests and Agenda Setting in the U.S. Supreme Court.” American Political Science Review 82 (4): 1109–27.
Caldeira Greg and Wright John. 1990. “ Amici Curiae Before the Supreme Court: Who Participates, When, and How Much?The Journal of Politics 52 (3): 782806.
Carpenter Daniel P., Esterling Kevin M., Lazer and David M.J. 1998. “The Strength of Weak Ties in Lobbying Networks: Evidence from Health-Care Politics in the United States.” Journal of Theoretical Politics 10 (4): 417–44.
Chatfield Charles. 1969. “Pacifists and Their Publics: The Politics of a Peace Movement.” Midwest Journal of Political Science. 13 (2): 298312.
Comp T. Allen, Editor. 1989. Blueprint for the Environment. Salt Lake City, UT: Howe Brothers.
Cornes Richard and Sandler Todd. 1986. The Theory of Externalities, Public Goods, and Club Goods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cortner Richard C. 1968. “Strategies and Tactics of Litigants in Constitutional Cases.” Journal of Public Law 17 (2): 287307.
Degenne Alain and Forse Michel. 1999. Introducing Social Networks. London: Sage Publications.
Dunleavy Patrick. 1991. Democracy, Bureaucracy, and Public Choice. New York: Prentice Hall.
Epstein Lee. 1993. “Interest Group Litigation During the Rehnquist Court Era.” The Journal of Law and Politics. 9 (4): 639717.
Epstein Lee, Segal Jeffrey A., and Johnson Timothy. 1996. “The Claim of Issue Creation on the U.S. Supreme Court.” American Political Science Review 90 (4): 845–52.
Fraley Chris. 1998. “Algorithms for Model-Based Gaussian Hierarchical Clustering.” SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing 20 (1): 270–81.
Fraley Chris and Raftery Adrian E. 1999. “MCLUST: Software for Model-Based Cluster Analysis.” Journal of Classification 16 (2): 297306.
Handler Joel. 1978. Social Movements and the Legal System: A Theory of Law Reform and Social Change. New York: Academic Press.
Hansford Thomas G. 2000. “Organized Interest Lobbying Strategies and the Decision to Participate at the U.S. Supreme Court as Amicus Curiae.” Paper presented at the Conference on the Scientific Study of Judicial Politics, Columbus, Ohio, 20–1 October 2000.
Harris Richard and Milkis Sidney. 1989. The Politics of Regulatory Change: A Tale of Two Agencies. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hays Samuel. 1987. Beauty, Health and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955–1985. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Heinz John P., Laumann Edward O., Nelson Robert L., Salisbury and Robert H. 1993. The Hollow Core: Private Interests in National Policy Making. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hirschman A.O. 1970. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Response to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Hojnacki Marie. 1997. “Interest Groups’ Decisions to Join Alliances or Work Alone.” American Journal of Political Science 41 (1): 6187.
Ingram Helen and Mann Dean. 1989. “Interest Groups and Environmental Policy.” In Environmental Politics and Policy, edited by Lester James. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 115–45.
Kluger Richard. 1976. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality. New York: Knopf.
Knoke David and Kuklinski James H. 1982. Network Analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
Laumann Edward and Knoke David. 1987. The Organizational State: Social Choice in National Policy Domains. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Loomis Burdett A. 1986. “Coalitions of Interests: Building Bridges in a Balkanized State.” In Interest Group Politics, edited by Cigler Allen J. and Loomis Burdett A. Second edition. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, pp. 258–74.
Lovrich Nicholas and Pierce John. 1986. “The Good Guys and Bad Guys in Natural Resource Politics: Context and Structure of Perceptions of Interests Among General and Attentive Publics.” Social Science Journal 23 (3): 307–26.
Melnick R. Shep. 1983. Regulation and the Courts: The Case of the Clean Air Act. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
Melnick R. Shep. 1992. “Pollution Deadlines and the Coalition for Failure.” In Environmental Politics: Public Costs, Private Rewards, edited by Greve Michael and Smith Fred. New York: Praeger, pp. 89103.
Mitchell Robert Cameron. 1979. “National Environmental Lobbies and the Apparent Illogic of Collective Action.” In Collective Decision Making: Applications from Public Choice Theory, edited by Russell Clifford. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press for Resources for the Future, pp. 87123.
Moe Terry. 1980. The Organization of Interests: Incentives and the Internal Dynamics of Political Interest Groups. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Mosher Lawrence. 1980. “Environmentalists Question Whether to Retreat or Stay on the Offensive.” National Journal 12 (50): 2116.
O'Connor Karen and Epstein Lee. 1983. “The Rise of Conservative Interest Group Litigation.” The Journal of Politics. 45 (2): 479–89.
Olson Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Olson Susan M. 1984. Clients and Lawyers: Securing the Rights of Disabled Persons. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Olson Susan M. 1990. “Interest-Group Litigation in Federal District Court: Beyond the Political Disadvantage Theory.” The Journal of Politics 52 (3): 854–82.
Ordeshook Peter C. 1992. A Political Theory Primer. New York: Routledge.
Pauly Mark V. 1967. “Clubs, Commonality and the Core: An integration of Game Theory and the Theory of Public Goods.” Economica 34 (135): 314–24.
Salisbury Robert H., Heinz John P., Laumann Edward O., Nelson and Robert L. 1987. “Who Works with Whom? Interest Group Alliances and Opposition.” American Political Science Review. 81 (4): 1217–34.
Sandler Todd. 1992. Collective Action: Theory and Applications. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Schepple Kim Lane and Walker Jack L. Jr. 1991. “The Litigation Strategies of Interest Groups.” In Mobilizing Interest Groups in America, edited by Walker Jack L. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, pp. 157–84.
Scott John. 1991. Social Network Analysis: A Handbook. London: Sage Publications.
Smith V. Kerry. 1985. “A Theoretical Analysis of the ‘Green Lobby’.” American Political Science Review. 79 (1): 132–47.
Sorauf Frank. 1976. The Wall of Separation: The Constitutional Politics of Church and State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Spriggs James F. 1996. “The Supreme Court and Federal Administrative Agencies: A Resource-Based Theory and Analysis of Judicial Impact.” American Journal of Political Science 40 (4): 1122–51.
Tilly Charles. 1978. From Mobilization to Revolution. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Wahlbeck Paul J. 1997. “The Life of the Law: Judicial Politics and Legal Change.” The Journal of Politics. 59 (3): 778802.
Walker Jack L. 1983. “The Origin and Maintenance of Interest Groups in America.” American Political Science Review. 77 (2): 390406.
Yandle Bruce. 1989. The Political Limits for Environmental Regulation. New York: Quorum Books.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Business and Politics
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 1469-3569
  • URL: /core/journals/business-and-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 3 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 74 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 21st February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.