The President and the Supreme Court (Cambridge University Press)




When presidents take positions on pending Supreme Court cases or criticize the Court’s decisions, they are susceptible to being attacked for acting as bullies and violating the norm of judicial independence. Why then do presidents target Supreme Court decisions in their public appeals? In this book, Paul M. Collins, Jr and Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha argue that presidents discuss the Court’s decisions to demonstrate their responsiveness to important matters of public policy and to steer the implementation of the Court’s decisions. Using data from Washington to Trump, they show that, far from being bullies, presidents discuss cases to promote their re-election, policy goals, and historical legacies, while attempting to affect the impact of Court decisions on the bureaucracy, Congress, the media, and the public.


  • Provides the most comprehensive examination ever undertaken of presidential speeches on U.S. Supreme Court decisions
  • Includes stories from the history of the American republic to illuminate how presidential discussions of Supreme Court decisions have and have not changed over time
  • Examines the effect of presidential speeches on the Court, Congress, the media, and the public
  • Blends normative scholarship with empirical and historical data on the relationship between the president and the Supreme Court
  • The data are presented in an easy-to-understand graphical matter, making the book accessible to a wide range of readers
  • Appropriate for use in advanced undergraduate, graduate, and law school courses focusing on the president, the Supreme Court, and the separation of powers

Richard E. Neustadt Award Winner

The President and the Supreme Court received the 2021 Richard E. Neustadt Award from the Presidents and Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. This award recognizes The President and the Supreme Court as the best book published that contributed to research and scholarship in the field of the American presidency.

Book Reviews

“In their new book, Paul M. Collins, Jr. and Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha examine if, how, and when presidents publicly discuss specific Supreme Court decisions. Given the background that both authors bring to this project, it is not a surprise that the book succeeds in providing an excellent analysis of an ambitious topic. Their book fits well into multiple lines of scholarly literature. Their focus on how presidents attempt to assert their own views of constitutional interpretation in their public speeches fits well into the important literature on coordinate construction of the U.S. Constitution (see Calabresi and Yoo 2008; Whittington 1999). Given that Collins and Eshbaugh-Soha ground their analysis of presidential use of public statements in terms of the presidents’ primary goals of reelection, good public policy, and historical achievement, their book also nicely ties into the mainstream scholarly work on the U.S. presidency (see Light 1999). Most directly, this book fits into the literature on presidential decisions to “go public” with the goal of pursuing their agenda priorities (see Kernell 2007), with a particular focus on how presidents speak about the U.S. Supreme Court in their public rhetoric (see Maltese 1995; Blackstone and Goelzhauser 2014). …The result is an ambitious book that covers a lot of ground, while leaving room for other scholars to pick-up on one or more of the questions that remain. I will be very interested in reading the work that is inspired by this top-notch book.”

-Lisa M. Holmes, University of Vermont, in Congress & the Presidency

“Collins and Eshbaugh-Soha’s book is well written and would be an excellent addition to any undergraduate or graduate course on American political institutions. It is straight-forward, easy to follow, and rich with examples that provide helpful context. That is not to say their book is not a significant contribution of scholarly work. This research provides an important theoretical foundation as to why presidents use their bully pulpit regarding the Court outside of confirmation hearings, something the discipline has long needed. Furthermore, it acknowledges important theoretical debates, most prominently the idea of judicial independence and coordinate construction, but in a modern way. Simply put, this work is accessible for those just learning about American government and still interesting and enjoyable to those who are well acquainted with this literature.”

-Elizabeth Lane, Louisiana State University, in Law & Politics Book Review

“Paul Collins’s and Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha’s work contributes in several ways to our understanding of the president’s influence on public opinion of the Supreme Court in specific cases and as an institution more broadly. First, they speak to a broad swath of our discipline by drawing from a wide range of scholarly literatures on the president, Supreme Court, Congress, public policy, public opinion, media, separation of powers, constitutional interpretation, judicial independence, and executive–judicial relations. Second, the topic of their work (and for the most part the presentation of their empirical findings) appeals to a broader public audience than most related scholarly works. Third, they have compiled a rich, novel database of the president’s public comments (written and spoken) about Supreme Court cases. These data offer a much more detailed understanding of what cases presidents focus on in public comments (pending, recently decided, and historical), the timing of their comments, the tone they take, at whom those comments are directed (media, Congress, or the bureaucracy), and especially why ‘they go public.’”

Katherine Vigilante, Oxford College of Emory University, in Perspectives on Politics

Read an Excerpt

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Presidential Speeches on Supreme Court Decisions Database

This file contains the Presidential Speeches on Supreme Court Decisions Database. The data are in Excel, SPSS, and Stata formats, compressed in a ZIP file. To download the database, click here: Download Data.

Replication Materials

This file contains the data and do files to replicate the empirical analyses in the book. The data are in Stata format, compressed in a ZIP file. The Stata code to replicate the models appears in the accompanying do files. To download the data and replication materials, click here: Download Data.