The High Priests of American Politics

The Role of Lawyers in American Political Institutions

  • Author(s): Miller, Mark C.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 0000-00-00
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $28.00 | Buy Now

The High Priests of American Politics offers an incisive look at how and why lawyers dominate legislatures in the United States and what impact, for better or worse, this dominance has on the broader governmental system.

Using a multidisciplinary approach, Mark C. Miller draws in large part on interviews he conducted with members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Ohio legislature, and the Massachusetts legislature. From this rich data, he shows how American lawyers are socialized into a common legal ideology, which in turn shapes the behavior of individual lawyer-politicians, legislative committees dominated by lawyers, and the entire legislative institutions of government.

Miller goes on to explore the various roles lawyers play in the development of public policy. He identifies some intriguing differences in attitude between lawyer and non-lawyer legislators toward the courts and then establishes a typology of differences among lawyer-politicians themselves, showing how these different “types” affect the legislative process at both the committee and the macro-institutional levels. In the final chapter, he examines the ways in which the lawyerly approach to decision-making influences the substantive policy choices of Congress and shapes its internal political culture.

The ultimate effect of lawyer-dominated legislatures, Miller concludes, is a government that is preoccupied with incremental, rights-oriented procedural solutions—and not with sweeping changes in the substance of public policy.

The Author: Mark C. Miller is assistant professor of American government at Clark University. He was a contributor to The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress and has published articles in journals such as Judicature, The Western Political Quarterly, Congress and the Presidency, and Constitutional Law Journal.