Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten

Second Advisor

Dr. John A. Clark

Third Advisor

Dr. John A. Clark

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


By examining cases from the Courts of Appeals in several issue areas between 1969 and 2002 (e.g., the Burger and Rehnquist Courts), this research examines both the fear of reversal from the high court (judicial impact theory) and whether this results in differences in response from these courts to Supreme Court precedent (principal-agent theory). The study finds that when the Supreme Court grants review to a decreasing number of lower court cases and thus gives a longer leash to these courts that instead of deferring to their principal, the appellate courts often defy the high court and seek to advance their collective policy and doctrine preferences.