Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

Todd G. Shields

Committee Member

Andrew J. Dowdle

Second Committee Member

William D. Schreckhise

Abstract

The intention of this analysis was to comment on the democratic nature of the United States Supreme Court by analyzing the decision making style of Supreme Court justice, William H. Rehnquist. There were two main research questions that drove this inquiry. First, was Rehnquist a consistent jurist? And second, which decision making model best exemplified his decision making style? In order to answer these questions, a computer assisted content analysis was conducted on the language Rehnquist used to describe his judicial philosophy and the justifications he made in opinions he wrote pertaining to personal privacy issues that came before the Court. The data consisted of 16 articles that described Rehnquist's self-attributed judicial philosophy, followed by an analysis of 11 opinions he wrote in personal privacy cases. After testing, five main components presented themselves as characteristics of his judicial philosophy, they were: legal positivism, moral relativism, majoritarianism, originalism and federalism. It became clear through an analysis of his word choice that his judicial philosophy played a consistent role in shaping the opinions he wrote on personal privacy issues. After further analysis it was deduced that Rehnquist followed the legal model of decision making when deciding personal privacy cases. This conclusion was reached because he relied more on legal factors than his political values when he decided these cases. However it is important to note that these findings should not be generalized beyond the area of personal privacy as many times it seems that based on the legal area being analyzed justices use different methods for deciding cases. Thus, while ideal it seems to be impossible for a judge to completely divorce themselves from their political identity and thus there will be, based on what a judge believes their role is, varying degrees of influence of their political values on the process of judging.

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