Research on Supreme Court Judges and Public Finance

Given that President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, I thought I would skim over what looks interesting in the literature on judgeship and public finance. Citation followed by brief note on what is in the paper.

  • Judges as Fiscal Activists: Can Constitutional Review Shape Public Finance?” By Jaroslaw Kantorowicz in DANUBE: Law and Economics Review (2013). A panel study of EU countries correlating strength of judicial review with the size of government, contains a thick overview of institutions and constitutional public finance.
  • The Ideological Component of Judging in the Taxation Context.” By Nancy Staudt, Lee Epstein, and Peter Weidenbeck in Washington University Law Review (2006). A law review where the scholars infer the role of politics (partisanship or ideology) in tax cases. They say the previous literature found strong correlations in civil rights cases, but not in economic cases presumably because of the more apolitical nature. Exploring all supreme court cases between 1940 and 2005 that involve interpretation of IRS code, they find no systematic “government” or “taxpayer” bias among judges of either political identity.
  • Taxation, Compensation, and Judicial Independence.” By Jonathan Entin and Erik Jensen in Case Western Reserve Law Review (2005-2006). Another law review, this time an exploratory essay on the limitations of the Compensation Clause (preventing congress from using salary to affect judicial opinion) and describes how this clause has affected taxing power, with specific attention on a 2001 case in which Congress sought to expand OASDI (“social security”) taxes to federal judges.
  • Preferences for School Finance Systems: Voters Versus Judges.” By Colin Campbell and William Fischel in the National Tax Journal (1996). Not about federal supreme court judges, but it documents that one of the most important local public finance reforms in the last 40 years (the centralization of local school finance systems to the state) was at least partially a result of mistaken (so argues Campbell and Fischel) stylized facts about the influence of property rich districts on state legislatures.
  • The Politics of Court Budgeting in the States: Is Judicial Indepdendence Threatened?” by James Douglas and Roger Hartley in Public Administration Review (2003). Surveys state court administrators to uncover the tools state legislatures have over their respective judicial branch. For all that fiscal federalism research emphasizes political independence arising from fiscal independence in geographically overlapping governments, how public finances might undermine the separation of powers seems understudied.

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