Judicial Politics: Institutional Consequences
An important element of the power and influence of the judiciary in American politics is the perception (correct or incorrect) that the judiciary is “above politics” and makes its decisions on the basis of constitutional principles and legal reasoning rather than political or policy goals.
Thus, there is irony in treating the behavior of the federal judiciary as goal-oriented and political.
Institutionally speaking, the judiciary is more influential the more a particular Court speaks with a unified voice on matters of constitutional law.
Concurrence and Dissent
Whereas unanimity generally increases the overall influence of the Court as a whole, individual justices and judges—as legislators in robes—might better meet their goals of achieving influence and having an effect on public policy by writing their own opinions, either agreeing with the majority opinion in the form of a concurrence or disagreeing in the form of a dissent.
Concurrences imply that there is more than one way to interpret the Constitution on a given question and may remind the public that many decisions justices make are their political judgments rather than merely an interpretation of the Constitution.
Dissents remind the public that the decisions that justices make are controversial and that there are competing legitimate ways to view complex constitutional questions.
Neither concurrences nor dissents help the Court maintain its influential image as the non-political arbiter of what the Constitution means.
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