The Maintenance of Institutional Legitimacy in Supreme Court Justices’ Public Rhetoric.

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 9-1-2019


Judicial politics scholars routinely posit that the behavior of Supreme Court justices is motivated in important part by concerns of institutional maintenance, that is, by a desire to maintain the Court’s unusually large store of institutional legitimacy. Previous work on this topic, however, has focused almost exclusively on the influence of such motivation on judicial decision making. We contend that if institutional maintenance is an important goal, it should be observable in other contexts as well. We examine televised mass-media interviews with Supreme Court justices from 1998 to 2016 and find that legitimacy reinforcement is the predominant goal reflected in justices’ rhetoric in those interviews.