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Final Paper Assignment
Supreme Court Justices and Judicial Decision-making
Suggested Outline:
1. Introduction that includes your major points and your argument about whether your Justice provides support for either the legal, attitudinal, or strategic model of judicial decision-making

3. Argue that the decisions your Justice has made while on the Supreme Court support the legal, attitudinal, or strategic model of judicial decision-making using evidence from the course readings and outside sources
Justice Ruth Bader is an attitudinal model decision maker
4. Choose a case from the 2015 Supreme Court term docket and provide evidence to support your argument about how your Justice’s decision supports your chosen model of judicial decision-making
5. Conclude by restating your argument and summarizing the evidence you used to support your argument
You can deviate from the outline as long as you include the following elements that count for a percentage of the final grade.
General Grading Guidelines:
20%: Background on the Justice (including their background/life and career history, and appointment to the Supreme Court) linking this information to concepts from the course readings 60%: Argument on which decision-making model you believe the Justice follows (legal, attitudinal, or strategic) with at least 10 sources (judicial opinions, speeches, books, articles, etc.) to support your argument and link your argument to the course readings. You need at to have at least this many of each type of source:
· 2 books
· 5 articles from peer reviewed, scholarly journals and/or academic conference papers
· 1 primary source or document (i.e. a case opinion, regulation, video or transcript of a
speech or confirmation hearing, etc.)
· 2 course readings (i.e. an article and the textbook).
Credible websites may be used in addition to the 10 source minimum, but will not count towards the 10 sources. Quality sources are vital to getting a good grade on the paper, so please email me if you have questions about your sources.
10%: How your argument is supported by a 2015 term Supreme Court opinion
10%: Readability, grammar, spelling, and proper citation format
Format: Times New Roman 12 point font with 1 inch margins in MS Word. You can use APA.
Length: 10-15 pages, doubled spaced
(late and/or plagiarized papers will receive a 0 grade)



Introduction. 1

Background of the Justice Ginsburg’s Life and Career History. 2

Evidence of Attitudinal Decision-Making. 3

Ginsburg’s Attitudinal Decision-Making in a 2015 Case. 4

Conclusion. 5

Works Cited. 6


There are three models of judicial decision-making: legal, attitudinal, and strategic. The legal model of judicial decision-making requires judges to operate based on mechanical jurisprudence. Under this model, a judge’s decision are substantially influenced by all the facts presented in the case and their application to the plain meaning of various statutes as well as the Constitution. The decisions that judges make under this model are also influenced by the Framers’ intent and/or precedent (Segal and Spaeth 48). In attitudinal decision-making, Supreme Court judges make decisions based on ideological preferences (Songer and Lindquist 1053). To provide evidence supporting this model, scholars only need to establish link between a judge’s preferences and behavior.


The strategic model of judicial decision-making addresses the interdependent nature of decision-making among judges (Epstein and Knight, 28). It explains situations where individual judges are influences to overlook their policy preferences to adopt the opinion of their peers. The model is based on the assumption that although judges take cognizance of their policy preferences, they also understand that a combination of factors must come into play for those preferences to be realized. Thus, judges who use the strategic model highlight the need to consider the preferences of other actors as well as the institutional context of their operations (O’Geen and Parker 13). This paper sets out to examine the decision-making model that best describes Supreme Court judge Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The argument that this paper seeks to make is that Justice Ginsburg’s decisions support the attitudinal decision-making model. To support the argument about how Justice Ginsburg’s decisions support the attitudinal model of judicial decision-making, the paper analyzes a case from the 2015 Supreme Court term docket.

Background of the Justice Ginsburg’s Life and Career History

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in 1933 in New York, after graduating from Columbia Law School, Ginsburg became a staunch courtroom advocate of gender equality, and was also working with the Women Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 1980, Ginsburg was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and later, in 1993, to the Supreme Court. Some of the major highlights of Ginsburg’s life included balancing her life as a mother and a legal professional; ability to operate in a hostile, male-dominated environment; and her relentless pursuit of a gender-blind application of the law to all groups (Songer and Haire 974). Ginsburg is also only the second woman to become a Supreme Court Justice. Her appointment to the Supreme Court was greatly influence by the desire by President Clinton to replace the outgoing Justice Bryon White with a judge who possessed the political and intellectual skills to deal with the Supreme Court’s more conservative members. A major concern for the Senate Judiciary Committee after her appointment was how she was planning to transition from a social advocate to a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.


As a judge, Ruth Ginsburg has transitioned from a social advocate by favoring moderation, caution, and restraint in her rulings (De Freitas 111). She has positioned herself in the moderate-liberal bloc that strongly supports gender equality, workers’ rights, and church-state separation. Despite her restrained writing, she has attracted attention due to her dissenting opinion, for example, in Bush v. Gore where the majority opinion favored Bush.

Evidence of Attitudinal Decision-Making

There is compelling evidence that the decisions of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fit into the attitudinal model of judicial decision-making. For example, on June 26 2015, a historical ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges was handed down, and Ginsburg was one of the judges who supported the idea of legalizing same-sex marriages in all 50 U.S. states. Ginsburg’s instrumental role in the decision was undisputable particularly in light of her public support for the same-sex marriages in previous years. Moreover, during early proceedings of Obergefell v. Hodges, she had challenged arguments against making same-sex marriages legal. Ginsburg’s opinion is a reflection of the ideological position that the law should be applied in a gender-blind manner to all Americans. This ideology of equality seems to have been strongly shaped by her experiences earlier in life. For example, she was discriminated against while looking for her first job despite her academic achievements primarily because she was Jewish.

Ginsburg has also demonstrated adherence to her jurisprudential approach to decision-making for the time she has been in command of the country’s highest court (Robinson and Swedlow 75). She remains a vocal jury who welcomes adversity while at the same time maintaining consistency in decision-making. She remains one of the most vocal Justices in the Supreme Court, and is widely respected for protecting women’s rights. She speaks her opinion boldly as long as there is a legal basis for holding such an opinion. There are many situations where Ginsburg has expressed her dissenting opinion even if it means standing alone (Hettinger 130). She regards dissenting opinions as important in any judicial system since they provide intelligence that can be relied on in future court decisions. In her view, it is through such dissenting opinions that court decisions can be reexamined and corrected in future.

One high-profile case in which Ginsburg dissented to adhere to her ideology of protecting women’s rights is Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In this case, two for-profit organizations, Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby had sued the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) due to the latter’s stance on the issue of mandatory contraception. The DHHS had required that it was mandatory for its clients to get mandatory coverage for contraception-related services. The organizations’ owners are Christians who consider certain birth control measures as the equivalent of abortion. Conservative-leaning justices ruled in favor of exemption but Ginsburg dissented, arguing that no-cost birth control is designed to uphold women’s wellbeing while serving public interest through public health.

Ginsburg’s Attitudinal Decision-Making in a 2015 Case

One 2015 Supreme Court case in which Justice Ginsburg’s use of the attitudinal model is demonstrated is Glossip v. Gross.  In this case, three death row inmates had sought to obstruct execution using a drug they said posed the risk of causing excruciating pain. The majority decision rejected the plaintiffs’ argument, arguing that the disputed drug works sufficiently well by rendering the prisoners unconscious. The Justices argued that there was no way in which using the drug violated the Eighth Amendment on prohibition of cruel punishment, and therefore the Oklahoma executions may go forward. In her dissenting view, Ginsburg argued that the death penalty in general was a violation of the Eighth Amendment. This view is a reflection of Justice Ginsburg’s long-hold ideological view regarding the death penalty.


The argument presented in this paper is that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg supports attitudinal decision-making. This argument has been sufficiently supported by various Supreme Court cases in which Justice Ginsburg’s views have significantly been influenced by her ideological preferences particularly on the issue of gender equality before the law. Justice Ginsburg’s ideological preferencese in regards to the death penalty also influenced her dissenting opinion in one of the landmark cases of 2015, Glossip v. Gross.

Works Cited

De Freitas, Tiago. “Theories of Judicial Behavior and the Law: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead.” Judicial Activism, 44 (2015): 105-117.

Epstein, Lee and Knight, Jack. The Choices Justices Make. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1997. Print.

Hettinger, Virginia. “Comparing Attitudinal and Strategic Accounts of Dissenting Behavior on the U.S. Courts of Appeals.” American Journal of Political Science, 48.1 (2004): pp. 123-137.

O’Geen, Andrew and Parker, Christopher. “Strategic Cooperation: Modeling Concurring Behavior on the U.S. Supreme Court.” American Politics Research 4 (2015): 12-30.

Robinson, Robert and Swedlow, Brendon. Toward A Cultural Theory of Judicial Behavior: Identifying and Overcoming Limitations in the Attitudinal Model. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.

Segal, Jeffrey and Spaeth, Harold. The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

Songer, Donald and Haire, Susan. “Integrating Alternative Approaches to the Study of Judicial Voting: Obscenity Cases in the U.S. Courts of Appeals.” American Journal of Political Science, 36.4 (1996): 963-982.

Songer, Donald and Lindquist, Stefanie. “Not the Whole Story: The Impact of Justices’ Values on Supreme Court Decision Making.” American Journal of Political Science, 40.4 (2010): 1049-4063.

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