Impact in the United States

Direct and indirect effects of appellate court decisions. Impact reflects the extent to which behaviors are changed as a consequence of a court decision. The impact of a decision is dependent on first achieving some degree of compliance. The most direct kind of impact a decision can have is when actual behaviors are modified. For example, utilization of the Exclusionary Rule (Judicial Effects and Policies) discourages unreasonable searches by law enforcement authorities because improperly obtained evidence cannot be used at a criminal trial. At the same time, strict adherence to the Exclusionary Rule (Judicial Effects and Policies) may negatively affect the prospects of successfully prosecuting some defendants because it precludes the use of reliable evidence. Court decisions may also have less direct impacts. Some decisions may influence attitudes and reinforce pressure for social change. Decisions that support challenges to gender-based discrimination have contributed to the decrease of some stereotyping about women, especially in the workplace.

See Also

Compliance (Judicial Effects and Policies) Implementation (Judicial Effects and Policies).

Analysis and Relevance

The impact of an appellate decision is produced in part by its policy content. Appellate courts are expected to rule on questions of law. This is an activity that necessarily involves establishment of norms and standards. The impact of such judgments is often substantial. There can be no doubt, for example, that Supreme Court decisions since 1960 have extensively changed the character of the criminal justice process. This has been particularly true in the wake of the extention of most federal constitutional safeguards to state criminal courts. Similarly, the Supreme Court’s decision in Baker v. Carr (369 U.S. 186: 1962) ultimately led to adoption of the one person-one vote principle for legislative districting. The redistricting prompted by Baker and subsequent decisions dramatically altered the composition of state legislative bodies, local legislatures, and the U.S. House of Representatives. The impact of court decisions varies. While the impact of decisions in certain policy areas might be extensive, there are conditions that tend to limit decision impact. Areas of doctrine such as those applying to the rights of the accused are often composed of many decisions, not all of which are entirely compatible. Thus, some decisions tend to impinge on others. Under Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436: 1966), police are obligated to provide certain warnings to persons prior to initiating custodial interrogation. At the same time, statements by a suspect made in the absence of Miranda warnings can be used during cross-examination if the person testifies in his or her own defense. Second, policies also come from other branches of government. To the extent policy decisions are not coincidental, the impact of judicial decisions may be reduced. Such muting of decision impact can occur if assistance in implementation is not forthcoming from the other governmental branches or their agencies. Finally, court decisions are only one of a number of influences on social attitudes. While court decisions may not permit employment discrimination, for example, practices by employers may be slow to change.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Impact from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Impact: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Impact. This part provides references, in relation to Impact, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Impact by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Impact and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Impact or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Impact and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Impact. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Impact should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Impact when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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