Ideological Values and their Impact on the Voting Behavior of Justices of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany

by Wittig, Caroline Elisabeth

Abstract (Summary)
Decisions of highest courts have a substantial impact on their respective societies. This thesis evaluates factors that influence a court's decision and provides a novel approach to analyzing decision making processes at the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany. It poses the question whether observations made by American political scientists for the U.S. Supreme Court also apply to the German Constitutional Court. In the United States the attitudinal model has been developed as an explanation for the voting behavior of Supreme Court justices. It proposes that justices make their decisions according to their ideological values. In Germany, however, the prevalent perception is still that of the legal model, i.e. the theory that judges decide on the grounds of a defined canon of interpretive methods. In order to determine whether the courts employ the legal or rather the attitudinal model, one decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court and one by the German Federal Constitutional Court are compared. They both deal with the widely recognized issue of abortion and thus provide an ideal basis for a comparative evaluation of decision making processes. First, the decisions are tested for the use of interpretive methods. Next, the study asks whether the attitudinal model would also work in Germany. For this purpose, ideological values of individual German justices are measured and compared for the first time with their voting behavior. The findings are unambiguous. In both cases the legal model broke down. On the contrary, like the Supreme Court justices, the justices of the Constitutional Court voted in accordance with their ideological values. Therefore, this study demonstrates that there is a high probability that the attitudinal model can not only explain voting behavior at the U.S. Supreme Court but also decision making at the German Federal Constitutional Court.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:attitudinal model ideological values german federal constitutional court


Date of Publication:05/27/2009

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