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Judicial Federalism and Representation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

Jonathan P. Kastellec*
Princeton University
Contact the author at


I examine the relationship between judicial federalism and state-level representation. I develop a framework in which federal courts establish a federal “floor” in a policy area, thus creating an asymmetry—states with lower levels of policy must shift policy to the floor, whereas states with higher levels of policy above the floor are unaffected. I use the framework to recast the “countermajoritarian difficulty” as an issue of federalism. To illustrate the framework, I present a quantitative analysis of the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, using data on public opinion, federal and state judicial decisions, and state-level policy.

Research Article
© 2018 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

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I thank Deborah Beim, Chuck Cameron, Tom Clark, Craig Curtis, Barry Friedman, Doug Rice, Jeff Segal, and Steve Wasby for helpful comments and suggestions, as well as participants at the 2016 conference titled “The Political Economy of Judicial Politics” at Princeton University. I also thank Julie Nelson for excellent research assistance. Previous versions of this article were awarded the Pi Sigma Alpha Award for the best paper presented at the Midwest Political Science Association in 2016 and the 2017 Best Conference Paper for the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association. Replication data and code can be found at


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