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Vol 21 No 9 Sept/Oct 2016

Book of the Month

Cover of Goode on Commercial Law

Goode on Commercial Law

Edited by: Ewan McKendrick
Price: £170.00

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The Limits of Legitimacy: Dissenting Opinions, Media Coverage, and Public Responses to Supreme Court Decisions

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ISBN13: 9780472072743
Published: September 2015
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Country of Publication: USA
Format: Hardback
Price: £76.50

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When the U.S. Supreme Court announces a decision, reporters simplify and dramatize the complex legal issues by highlighting dissenting opinions and thus emphasizing conflict among the justices themselves. This often sensationalistic coverage fosters public controversy over specific rulings, despite polls which show that Americans strongly believe in the Court's legitimacy as an institution.

In The Limits of Legitimacy, Michael A. Zilis illuminates this link between case law and public opinion. Drawing on a diverse array of sources and methods, he employs case studies of eminent domain decisions, analysis of survey data and media reporting, an experiment to test how volunteers respond to media messages, and finally the natural experiment of the controversy over the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Zilis finds, first, that the media tends not to quote from majority opinions. However, the greater the division over a particular ruling among the justices themselves, the greater the likelihood that the media will criticize that ruling, characterize it as activist, and employ inflammatory rhetoric.

Zilis then demonstrates that the media's portrayal of a decision, as much as the substance of the decision itself, influences citizens' reactions to and acceptance of it. This meticulously constructed study and its persuasively argued conclusion advance the understanding of the media, judicial politics, political institutions, and political behavior.

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