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Dalton combines the scholarly literature on public law and judicial impact with recent studies of policy implementation at the state level. He emphasizes the underlying constitutional, organizational, psychological, and political factors that shape public policy outcomes, arguing that a sound grasp of these factors can lead to an understanding of the gap between theory and practice in democratic politics. He examines the historical development and revision of the U.S. Supreme Court civil liberties rulings from the 1960s to the early 1980s as well as executive and congressional policy to regulate criminal records privacy. He also underscores the importance of the intergovernmental context in which state officials act as both leaders and intermediaries in the implementation of national policies. Dalton then combines these elements of analysis into a general theory of legitimation in order to render the significance of criminal justice policy for the American political system understandable as a whole.