Skip to main content

The Judicial Power of the Purse

How Courts Fund National Defense in Times of Crisis

Congress and the president are not the only branches that deal with fiscal issues in times of war. In this innovative book, Nancy Staudt focuses on the role of federal courts in fiscal matters during warfare and high-cost national defense emergencies. There is, she argues, a judicial power of the purse that becomes evident upon examining the budgetary effects of judicial decision making. The book provides substantial evidence that judges are willing—maybe even eager—to redirect private monies into government hands when the country is in peril, but when the judges receive convincing cues that ongoing wartime activities undermine the nation’s interests, they are more likely to withhold funds from the government by deciding cases in favor of private individuals and entities who show up in court.

In stark contrast with conventional legal, political, and institutional thought that privileges factors associated with individual preferences, The Judicial Power of the Purse sheds light on environmental factors in judicial decision making and will be an excellent read for students of judicial behavior in political science and law.

216 pages | 10 line drawings, 16 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Chicago Series on International and Domestic Institutions

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Economics

Political Science: Judicial Politics


A significant advance on conventional wisdom about judicial behavior during wartime emergencies. With admirable clarity, Nancy Staudt provides plausible evidence that the judiciary is an active partner in crisis governance—finding ways to put pools of cash at the government’s disposal when it does not use its taxing powers aggressively enough.”

Eric Posner, University of Chicago Law School

“Nancy Staudt’s The Judicial Power of the Purse offers an entirely fresh perspective on the determinants of judicial decision making.  By focusing on the fiscal consequences of judges’ voting behavior, she presents surprising new insights into the impact of macroeconomic factors on their choices. In testing a novel and exciting theory about judging, Staudt establishes herself as a creative and innovative social scientist and makes a major contribution to the literature on judicial behavior.”—Stefanie A. Lindquist, University of Texas School of Law

Stefanie A. Lindquist, University of Texas School of Law

"Investigating thousands of Supreme Court and lower federal court opinions, courtroom filings, and law clerk memoranda, Nancy Staudt exposes the implicit judicial power of the purse. . . . Staudt dynamically expands the scholarly understanding of the macro-level factors that influence judicial decision making. This book challenges conventional perceptions of federal power dynamics and revives the debate over the extent to which considerations of national interests should sway judicial preferences."—Harvard Law Review

Harvard Law Review

 “Nancy Staudt offers a new look at the role of the federal judiciary in times of crisis. While the conventional wisdom holds that the judiciary holds neither ‘purse’ nor ‘sword,’ Staudt offers illuminating evidence that federal judges, in particular the members of the Supreme Court, can (and do) influence sources of federal revenue. The Judicial Power of the Purse is well-written and clear, and should serve to influence future research.”


Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Figures
One  Federal Judges’ Budgetary Powers
Two Pulling the Purse Strings: An Information Theory of Crisis Jurisprudence
Three Mobilizing Judicial Resources: The Information Theory in Action
Four The Judicial Understanding of Costly Foreign Policy Events
Five The Next Stop: The Information Theory in the Domestic Context


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press