In the Crosshairs: Second Amendment Lawyers and Cases in State and Federal Appellate Courts

Abstract

Judicial behavior, the types of activities and behaviors judges become involved with in their capacity on the bench, has a profound and lasting impact on the types of decisions rendered by judges across all courts that comprise the American judiciary (Baum 2000; Baum 2006; Maveety 2002). There is a growing realization that judicial behavior encompasses more than just the making of good laws and public policy decisions (Baum, 2000; Baum 2006; Hammond, Bonneau, & Sheehan 2005; Comparato 2003). For example, Songer & Haire (1992) explore integrated approaches to the study of judicial voting through obscenity cases in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Creating an integrated multivariate model that combines five approaches to judicial voting, the authors find that this new model correctly predicts about 80% of the judges\u27 votes on obscenity cases with an error reduction rate of almost 46%. My dissertation focuses on the judicial behavior of state Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeals judges through the lens of Second Amendment claims and issues, a polarizing American political issue over the last fifty years.;Through a descriptive and logistic regression analysis of the extent of 488 Second Amendment court rulings made in state courts of last resort and U.S. Courts of Appeals rendered between 1960 and 2009, I theorize that state Supreme Court selection methods, the presences of a state intermediate appellate courts, U.S. Courts of Appeals majority presidential party nomination panel, along with state and federal appellate circuit political ideology, urban/rural dynamics, gun ownership percentage, and homicide rates will have an impact on the outcome of Second Amendment decisions at these various judicial levels. For instance, an elected state Supreme Court system is more likely to produce a gun rights ruling, while an appellate panel with a majority of judges appointed by Democratic Presidents would be more likely to produce a gun control ruling. The results indicate state and appellate circuit political ideology (conservative→liberal spectrum) and gun ownership percentages affect the outcome of Second Amendment decisions in state Supreme Courts and the U.S. Courts of Appeals, while homicide rates affect these decisions in state courts of last resort. As such, a conservative political ideology and high gun ownership percentage in a state or appellate circuit means that it is more likely for their judges to produce a gun rights ruling, while a liberal political ideology and low gun ownership percentage means that the state or appellate circuit is more likely to produce a gun control ruling. One chapter explores these dynamics at the state Supreme Court level, while a second chapter does the same in the U.S. Courts of Appeals.;A third substantive dissertation chapter considers the impact of legal participation, litigation strategies, venue-shopping, along with interest group coordination, networking, and organization, in planned telephone interviews with pro-gun and gun control Second Amendment interest group lawyers who have litigated cases in these two levels of the state and federal judiciary between 1960 and 2009. In this chapter, it is theorized that there will be clear differences between gun rights and gun control interest groups, and heavily funded and lesser funded interest groups, with regard to the five major interview issues listed above. Twenty-one interviews with interest group lawyers will be conducted between 24 August and 15 October 2010

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