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"Sociological Legitimacy" in Supreme Court Opinions
Washington and Lee Law Review (2007)
  • Michael L. Wells, University of Georgia School of Law

Analysis of a Supreme Court opinion ordinarily begins from the premise that the opinion is a transparent window into the Court's thinking, such that the reasons offered by the Court are, or ought to be, the reasons that account for the holding. Drawing on sociologist Erving goffman's study of "appearance management," this article shows that the Court's opinions often reflect more concern with its audience's sensibilities than with the reasons that drive the outcomes of cases. The article then considers the normative issues raised by the practice, arguing against blanket condemnation.

  • legitimacy
Publication Date
Summer 2007
Citation Information
Michael L. Wells. ""Sociological Legitimacy" in Supreme Court Opinions" Washington and Lee Law Review Vol. 64 Iss. 3 (2007)
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