Home » LAW » Kevin Lyles (1997). The Gatekeepers: Federal District Courts in the Political Process

Kevin Lyles (1997). The Gatekeepers: Federal District Courts in the Political Process

Here is a list of reviews and random citations/references to this book

Recently my book was cited by the ABA in “In the Supreme Court of the United States, Barbara Grutter v. Lee Bollinger, Brief of the American Bar Association as Amicus Curiae in Support of Respondents,” pp. vii and 17.  http://www.vpcomm.umich.edu/admissions/legal/gru_amicus-ussc/um/ABA-gru.pdf

Same as above, but for the Sixth Circuit.  The American Bar Associations Amicus Curiae in Support of the Defendants-Appellants in Grutter v. Bollinger, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, on page 26.  http://www.abanet.org/irr/grutter.pdf  also at http://www.abanet.org/amicus/grutter.pdf

J.A. Wynn.  Judicial Diversity: Where Independence and Accountability Meet, Albany Law Review, p. 783
http://www.albanylawreview.org/archives/67/3/JUDICIALDIVERSITY–WHEREINDEPENDENCEANDACCOUNTABILITYMEET.pdf

"Judges are not immune from perceptions shaped by race and
gender.  Kevin Lyles's 1997 study revealed that eighty-three percent
of Caucasian judges believed African-American litigants were
treated fairly by the criminal justice system, whereas only eighteen
percent of African-American judges held this same belief." 36


The Law and Politics Book Review.  Vol 9 No. 4 (April 1999) pp. 163-165:http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/lyles.html  Reviewed by Robert A. Carp, Department of Political Science, University of Houston.

 Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, Professor Lyles focuses his research on the selection and decision making of federal district judges. His work is a continuation of a trend in Pubic Law research that began several decades ago, a rejection of the "upper court myth syndrome" in favor of more emphasis on the workhorses of the U.S. judiciary – federal district judges. Lyles, eschews the once-common assumption that only the US. Supreme Court and its decisions were worthy of detailed analysis, and rather reaffirms the proposition that the trial courts are deserving of our attention for a variety of reasons: the vast majority of the district court’s quarter of a million decisions per year are never appealed and of those which are, the judge’s original decision is affirmed in a vast majority of the cases. And equally important, the author emphasizes that the trial judges are policy makers and not merely judicial bureaucrats who routinely enforce appellate court rules; likewise they are correctly viewed as instruments through which American presidents manifest their policy goals and predilections.

There are two primary questions which underlie Lyles’ text: First, he asks to what extent and with what success specific American Presidents have advanced various policy objectives through their trial judge appointments; and, second, he explores the degree to which judges’ views on specific policy issues correspond to their voting patterns on these same issues. He furthermore examines the extent to which judicial decision making is a function of the judge’s race and gender. An initial chapter sets forth the justification for studying U.S. trial judges and lays down the contextual and conceptual framework for the analysis. Chapter 2 outlines the history, functions, and day-to-day operations of the district courts, but more importantly, Lyles provides the first taste of the empirical data taken from the National District Court Judges Survey (NDJS) which provides a glimpse at how the judges themselves view their policymaking roles. Analysis of the data taken from the NDJS is one of the major contributions of this book throughout this and the succeeding chapters.

A third chapter focuses on the selection process of the district judges and on their various players in the appointments process, e.g., the President, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department, and so on. In this chapters he echoes themes made recently in greater detail by Sheldon Goldman in his 1997 text PICKING FEDERAL JUDGES: LOWER COURT SELECTION FROM ROOSEVENT THROUGH REAGAN. However, the novel contribution of this chapter is the data Lyles presents from the NDJS which outlines how the judges themselves view the selection process. For example, when asked how much did "politics" play a role in their confirmation process, 41.8 percent of the judges said "some" while 20.5 percent replied "a lot." The following three chapters makes use of Lyles’ creation of what he terms the "presidential policy objective profiles" (PPOPs). These profiles enabled the author to delineate presidential policy concerns in five major substantive areas: abortion rights, affirmative action, religious liberty, integration of the public schools, and voting rights. The analysis covers an impressive thirty-six year time frame – from 1960 to 1996.

Chapter 7 contains the major substantive analysis because it is here that Lyles correlates the overall presidential policy objective profiles developed in the previous chapters with the presidential cohort’s actual judicial decision making. Data on the judges’ decisional patterns are taken from U.S. LAW WEEK’s "Digests of Significant Opinions Not Yet Generally Reported," the methodology for which the author provides greater detail in Appendix B. Studying only "significant opinions" rather than all opinions might subject the author to possible criticism, but he does a fair job of justifying his methodological approach, and surely others have published in this realm without making any claim that their data set is a mirror of all trial judge decision making, e.g., POLITICS & JUDGMENT IN FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS by C.K. Rowland and Robert A. Carp. In this chapter Lyles makes the important finding that "in all but two instances, when presidents have expressed an overt policy objective (i.e., high priority/high expectation), they have achieved strong measures of proportional success." The only exceptions were Nixon’s lack of success on the issues of abortion and school integration. Furthermore the author concludes that the trial judges do not appear to be totally constrained by supposedly strict appellate court guidelines but rather have felt relatively free to vote their policy propensities while on the bench.

An eighth chapter explores the effect of the judge’s race on their expectations of their key policymaking roles and functions. Here the author finds a troubling level of polarization between white jurists on one hand and Black and Latin judges on the other. For example, while just over 90 percent of white judge agreed that "Blacks have made considerable progress in securing civil rights," only 68 percent of the Latino jurists felt this was the case and less than half (47 percent) of Black judges believed that their progress had been "considerable." The next chapter explores this same phenomenon from the standpoint of gender, and there the findings are more mixed. When responding to queries about the general selection and appointment of judges, differences between males and females were modest. However, on other issues the variances were more dramatic. For instance, only 17 percent of the males believed that "a few big interests" run the government whereas 40 percent of the females felt that this was the case. In general Lyles findings about both race and gender are rather tentative which is appropriate given the somewhat limited data to which he had access.

The overall strengths of this book include the author’s use of the fresh data taken from the National District Court Judge Survey which he carefully collected while serving as a Post Doctoral Fellow at Stanford University. The data set is truly a major contribution in the Public Law realm. This is likewise true of the data on trial judge decision making gleaned from U.S. LAW WEEK’s digest of significant opinions. Quantitative data on district judges’ decisions are hard and tedious to come by, and the discipline will welcome this additional resource. Another strength of the book is Lyles’ highly competent and careful analysis. He has an accurate and keen understanding of the judicial selection process, and the conclusions he comes to based on his empirical findings seem fair and reasonable. He does not claim more for his findings than the data warrant.

The book’s pluses are tempered by one reality: its insights and conclusions serve to further validate the existing paradigm but not really to challenge it in any significant way. For example the extensive material on the nomination and appointment of federal district judges and the long discussions of presidential appointment criteria between 1960 and 1996, while well written, contain no new information and reiterate information that has been already well covered by other books and articles. Likewise Lyles’ substantive findings throughout the book serve to validate and embellish the conclusions reached by many other scholars during the past several decades. On reading any given chapter’s conclusions the reader is not likely to exclaim: "Wow! It this is true and validated by other research, just think of what this will mean for our understanding of judicial politics and policymaking." Rather a typical reaction to any particular chapter would be more like: "This is interesting and certainly supports the conclusion that Professor A made in her article on X or that Professor B made in his book on such and so." Again, the text serves to carefully embellish the existing paradigm – not to challenge it.

As a final observation I would note that the text is well written in terms of syntax and style, and the selected bibliography at the end will prove useful to scholars and students alike. The book warrants reading by all scholars in the public law realm, and by attorneys and members of the judiciary’s "attentive public" who are interested in the relationship between courts and public policy.
Journal of Politics, Vol. 61, No. 3, August, 1999 (pp. 860-862).  http://www.jstor.org/stable/2647841 

When studying centers of power within the United States system of government it is quite popular to concentrate on the three main branches of government. This is certainly understandable as each of the three branches possesses enormous power and has brought momentous changes in our society. However, the fact of the matter is that all three branches are each composed of various lower parts that have a significant impact on public policymaking. This becomes quite evident when considering the federal district courts of our national judiciary. It is an obvious fact that although the decisions of the Supreme Court receive most of the public's attention, the lower federal district courts hear most of the cases. In addition, for the vast majority of litigants who find themselves in these lower courts, the federal district court is the court of last resort. Hence, the United States federal district courts have a significant impact on federal policy--at least for those who are affected personally by them.

Kevin L. Lyles has done an admirable job in analyzing the role of the federal district courts. He has developed a work that raises a number of interesting questions about these courts. For example, just why are they so important in terms of public policymaking. How do they function in reality? How are they influenced? And, to what extent do the judges who serve on them advance the agenda of the president who nominated them? These are important questions that Lyles has attempted to answer in an impressive analytic manner. They are important questions, and shed a new light on this key layer of the federal judiciary. The author notes: "At bottom, this volume demonstrates vividly three simple, yet still reluctantly acknowledged facts: (1) that judicial selection and appointments are an inextricable part of the political process; (2) that modern presidents have used and continue to use such appointments in their attempts to achieve particular policy objectives; and (3) that those who sit on the court determine what comes out of the court" (3). The author also makes clear that, although the concept of separation of powers implies a degree of independence for the judicial system, in reality the three branches of government are interdependent on each other for carrying out their responsibilities. We also learn that it is extremely important who sits on the bench. Thus, those who do have this opportunity are of special interest to numerous groups in our society. After all, the decisions of judges constitute important policy decisions that are advantageous to some groups and disadvantageous to other groups.

The work has 10 chapters, with the first serving to introduce the reader to the role of the federal district courts in our society. Chapter 2 details their history and provides some interesting historical insights about them, while the third chapter alludes to the selection, examination, and appointment processes as they apply to these courts. Chapters 4-6 cover the attempts of presidents to advance certain policy objectives. Chapter 7 gives us some idea as to just how effective presidents have been in their efforts to bring their policy into effect through these courts. Next follow chapters looking at the influence of minorities and women in these courts, and offering a comparative description and assessment of how female federal district court judges view various aspects of their role. A final chapter identifies a number of valuable lessons learned from studying the federal district courts.

The approach used in the writing of this book is basically that of a narrative descriptive analysis supplemented with information obtained from the National District Court Judge Survey. Additional sources of information used in the preparation of this work included scholarly books and articles, court cases, and various government reports. The author's style of writing makes it easy to understand the material presented in the book. Assuming one has a modest background in the subject of American government, it should be relatively easy to grasp the main points made by the author.  The work will therefore be appreciated by various individuals who are associated with a wide variety of academic backgrounds. In addition, those individuals who specialize in analyzing the formulation of public policy resulting from the judiciary will be especially interested in this book.

Professor William E Kelly, Auburn University
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
(April 1998),  Vol. 35, No, 8, p. 1453.

35-4785 Lyles, Kevin L. The gatekeepers: federal district courts in the political process. Praeger, 1997. 316p bibli index afp ISBN 0-275-96082-X,
"Lyles has prepared an excellent volume on a subject that is increasingly receiving greater attention by public law scholars: decision-making by federal district judges. The author begins with a discussion about the importance of these ”workhorses of the federal judiciary” and proceeds with a chapter on the nomination and appointment process. The next three chapters document the presidential agendas and corresponding judicial appointment strategies from John Kennedy in 1960 through Clinton’s first term. A key summary chapter provides empirical data to indicate the degree to which a president’s judicial cohort decided cases in accordance with the chief executive’s policy agenda. Two subsequent chapters ask whether the judge’s race and gender make a difference in the way he or she approaches judicial decision-making. The author makes excellent use of questionnaire data, which he gleaned from the National District Court Judge Survey, a project be directed. ... The book is clearly written and contains an excellent bibliography. Upper-division undergraduates and above.—R. A. Carp University of Houston"
Sherrilynn A. Ifill.  Judicial Diversity. 13 The Green BagInc. The Green Bag An Entertaining Journal of Law. 2D 45.  p. 54, note 15.  http://www.greenbag.org/v13n1/v13n1_ifill.pdf  also the same at https://litigation-essentials.lexisnexis.com/webcd/app?action=DocumentDisplay&crawlid=1&doctype=cite&docid=13+Green+Bag+2d+45&srctype=smi&srcid=3B15&key=727ec218b7c727305de5e30946acb23c

Amicus Brief of the Boston Bar Association in Grutter v Bollinger, p. 11.  http://www.vpcomm.umich.edu/admissions/legal/gru_amicus-ussc/um/BostonBar-gru.doc or http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/supreme_court/briefs/02-241/02-241.mer.ami.bba.doc

Christina L. Boyd.  “The Impact of Courts of Appeals on Substantive and Procedural Success in the Federal District Courts,” Washington University in Saint Louis.  p. 5. http://clboyd.net/impact.pdf

DC Vladeck.  “Keeping Score: The Utility of Empirical Measurement in Judicial Selection.” Florida State University Law Review [Vol. 32:1415].  p. 1421. http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/lawreview/downloads/324/Vladeck.pdf

Tracey George.  Judicial Independence and the Ambiguity of Article III Protections.  Ohio State Law Journal [Vol. 64:221 (2003)], page 15.  http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/lawjournal/issues/volume64/number1/george.pdf

En Banc: “Newsletter of the Superior Court of Arizona Law Library,” v.3, Special Issue, November, 1998, p. 3.  http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/lawlibrary/Docs/PDF/Enbanc/eb9811sp.pdf

Elizabeth G. Thornburg.  “The Managerial Judge Goes to Trial.”  University of Richmond Law Review 44 U. Rich. L. Rev. 1261 (2010), endnote 248.  http://lawreview.richmond.edu/themanagerialjudge-2/

James J. Brudney.  “Recalibrating Federal Judicial Independence.”  Ohio State Law Journal [Vol. 64: 149 (2003)]. note 15 (describing origins and history of the blue slip procedure), p 14.  http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/lawjournal/issues/volume64/number1/brudney.pdf

Mary Kreiner Ramirez, Associate Professor of Law, Washburn University of Law.  “Into the Twilight Zone: Informing Judicial Discretion in Federal Sentencing.” p. 21, note 97,  http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=mary_ramirez

John C. Blakeman, Donald E. Greco. “Federal District Court Decision Making in Public and Religious Speech Cases, 1973-2001.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 43:3 (2004), pp. 439-449.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/1387638.   Reference on pp. 440, 448.

http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=23383607

http://www.amazon.com/Gatekeepers-Federal-District-Political-Process/dp/027596082X

http://www.amazon.com/Gatekeepers-Federal-District-Political-Process/product-reviews/027596082X

http://www.questia.com/library/book/the-gatekeepers-federal-district-courts-in-the-political-process-by-kevin-l-lyles.jsp

http://books.google.com/books?id=8YtDUl6z2OMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+gatekeepers+federal+district+courts+in+the+political+process&source=bl&ots=9Q1QSQKgtJ&sig=uiF8kgO1_ZEFLFMPhrKdrmJ06CY&hl=en&ei=GPokTc3cK4ugnwfLhezZCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&sqi=2&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://www.flipkart.com/gatekeepers-kevin-lyles-federal-district-book-027596082x

Black Past,org  Selected Books by Black Authors in Which Blackness in Not the Predominant Theme.  I have no idea that the hell this is, or why they picked me, or how they make these determinations?  http://www.blackpast.org/?q=selected-books-black-authors-which-blackness-not-predominant-theme

Exclusives EBOOKS.  I have no idea how they got my book or why?  The Gatekeepers. http://www.exclus1ves.co.za/ebooks/Gatekeepers-Federal-District-Courts-in–AuthorKevin-L-Lyles/000000000700000000001000000000000000000000000009780313025372/


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