Supreme court auditing of the US courts of appeals: An organizational perspective

Stefanie A. Lindquist, Susan B. Haire, Donald R. Songer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Using an aggregate-level model of Supreme Court-circuit court interactions, this study assesses the extent to which the Court's auditing process of circuit court outputs is shaped by organizational dynamics such as structural capacity, institutionalization, and demographic characteristics. Principals in organizational hierarchies must audit the behavior of their agents to ensure that the agents are faithfully complying with the principals' preferences. In the case of the Supreme Court, such auditing activities must take place in the face of very limited institutional capacity on the Court's part. We propose that the Court considers certain broad organizational and institutional characteristics at the circuit level when performing this task. In particular, we find that the Court strategically allocates its limited institutional resources to audit decisions to respond to its recent interactions with individual circuits in past terms, the circuits' internal decision-making dynamics (including dissent and reversal rates), and goal conflict between the circuit and the Supreme Court.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-624
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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