Political Jurisprudence

Political Jurisprudence in the United States

An approach to the study of law and courts that features the political character of judicial processes. Political jurisprudence is a conceptualization of law with its roots in legal realism generally and sociological jurisprudence more specifically. The political approach emerged in the 1940s in an attempt to produce theory that could explain the Supreme Court decisions rendered in the wake of President Franklin Roosevelt’s plan to “pack” the Court. Political jurisprudence generally embraced the realist positions but recast them in political terms. The human element, it argues, is key. Judges do not mechanically apply abstract legal norms, but rather are influenced by their individual views of justice. As a consequence, law and legal processes must be examined in a political context.

See Also

Behavioral Jurisprudence (Judicial Function) Jurisprudence (Judicial Function) Legal Realism (Judicial Function) Sociological Jurisprudence (Judicial Function).

Analysis and Relevance

Political jurisprudence developed, logically enough, from within the discipline of political science, a discipline heavily grounded in law and legal doctrine. After the turn of the century, many political scientists began to subscribe to the thinking of the legal realists. For some, however, the theories of the realists were not quite adequate. This inadequacy was underscored in the events of the 1930s. President Roosevelt attempted to transform his mandate from the 1932 election by establishing public policy aimed at economic recovery. His initiatives were largely stymied by the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretations of federal authority, especially the taxing and commerce powers. Roosevelt was returned to office in 1936 and immediately sought to enlarge the Supreme Court. It was a thinly veiled attempt to “pack” enough justices onto the Court to ensure a favorable response to the hamstrung New Deal proposals. The plan had no real chance of adoption by Congress, but it seemed to drive the swing votes on the Court to Roosevelt’s position. Although the membership on the Court did not change, after the “packing” proposal the Court changed its positions on the pivotal constitutional law issues associated with the New Deal. The approach known as political jurisprudence was developed to explain such outcomes. Political jurisprudence would later splinter, with a portion of its number becoming judicial behaviorists. Notwithstanding, most contemporary research on the courts appears to be a product of those holding the political jurisprudential view.

Notes and References

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

Political Jurisprudence: 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 Political Jurisprudence. This part provides references, in relation to Political Jurisprudence, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Political Jurisprudence 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 Political Jurisprudence 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 Political Jurisprudence 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 Political Jurisprudence 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 Political Jurisprudence. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Political Jurisprudence 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 Political Jurisprudence when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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