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Integrating courts into policy process theories

Christine Rothmayr Allison
Université de Montréal
Christine Rothmayr Allison
Université de Montréal
Open Panel

Abstract

In North America, there has been an extensive debate surrounding the question of how to conceptualize and measure the impact of court decisions on public policies; however, a preoccupation with understanding why individuals and organized interests turn to courts has led to an emphasis on the effects of court decisions on actor mobilisation. In Europe, the focus has rather been on how courts and legal mobilisation feed into processes of Europeanization or the interaction between constitutional courts and other branches of government. Courts and politics scholars have largely ignored policy process theories, and theories of the policy process often omit to integrate questions of legal mobilisation and courts into their conceptualization of the policy process. This paper discusses how theories of the policy process could better integrate courts into their conceptualisation of policy-making and policy change. The paper notably discusses agenda-setting theories (punctuated equilibrium), approaches focusing on ideas and policy learning, theories of policy diffusion and network approaches. Even though, the focus of the paper is on theory, examples from biotechnology policy-making in North-America and Europe will underpin the theoretical discussion.