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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

For decades, research on judicial impact has supported two seemingly contradictory propositions. Courts are persistently viewed as weak institutions that lack implementation tools and powerful political actors that influence numerous social outcomes. This schizophrenic state of the literature is propelled by ambiguity over the meaning of judicial impact. A narrow conceptualization of judicial impact as the causal effect of judicial rulings on others’ behavior offers conceptual clarity and analytical rigor. Studies in this vein often disagree about whose behavior to examine (judges, bureaucrats, or private actors), but there is considerable agreement regarding the factors that shape impact: opinion clarity, agency preferences, institutional context, and external pressure. Impact researchers should heed the admonishments of earlier scholars and strive to resolve the conceptual ambiguities that pervade the field.

Keywords: impact, implementation, compliance, judicial power, opinion clarity, agency preferences, institutional context, external pressure

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