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Bartels, Brandon L.Heterogeneity in Supreme Court decision making: how situational factors shape preference-based behavior
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2006, Political Science
The study of Supreme Court decision making has been heavily influenced by the attitudinal model, which contends that justices’ decisions are dominated by their personal policy preferences. While scholars differ in their acceptance of the attitudinal model, most assume that policy preferences exhibit a uniform impact across all situations in which justices make decisions. This assumption has allowed scholars to make broad generalizations about justices’ behavior, but my dissertation argues that there exists systematic variation, or heterogeneity, in the impact of policy preferences that can be explained theoretically and tested empirically. The goal of the dissertation is to relax this uniformity assumption in order to identify and explain the extent to which the impact of justices’ policy preferences on their choices varies across different situations. Using a psychologically-oriented framework, I develop a theory specifying the mechanisms—-attitude strength and accountability—-that explain variation in the preference-behavior relationship. I posit that situational factors associated with each mechanism influence the magnitude of preference-based behavior. Employing a multilevel modeling framework, I execute three sets of empirical analyses. In Chapter 3, I test whether hypothesized case-level factors within the Court’s immediate environment have shaped preference-based behavior for portions of the Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist Courts. The results provide uniform support for some of the hypotheses across all three Court eras, uniform rejection for others, and mixed support for others. In Chapter 4, I examine the degree to which external strategic considerations—-public opinion and the preferences of the other branches of government—-shape preference-based behavior. The results reveal that public mood exhibits an effect contrary to expectations and ideological consensus within Congress and between Congress and the President is capable, under certain conditions, of constraining the magnitude of preference-based behavior. In Chapter 5, I test the impact of precedent-related legal considerations on the preference-behavior relationship. The results reveal that legal considerations are capable of shaping the magnitude of preference-based behavior on the Court. The theory and findings contribute to the literature by underscoring the idea that the preference-behavior relationship on the Court is shaped by the varying situations that confront the justices.

Committee:

Lawrence Baum (Advisor)

Subjects:

Political Science, General

Keywords:

U.S. Supreme Court; judicial decision making; judicial behavior; law and courts; multilevel modeling

Scott, Kevin MatthewDouble Agents: An Exploration of the Motivations of Court of Appeals Judges
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2002, Political Science
Judges of the United States courts of appeals represent a unique class of American political actors. While their subordinate status to the Supreme Court might be expected to make them faithful agents of the Supreme Court, other components of their environment might be expected to counteract the pressure to execute the wishes of the Supreme Court. The broader question of the motivation of the court of appeals judges lies at the heart of this project. I argue that previous work on court of appeals judges has not devoted sufficient attention to the possible variety of goals of court of appeals judges and the means they use to accomplish those goals. Using reversal of court of appeals decisions by the Supreme Court, I subject to empirical test three competing explanations for the motivations of court of appeals judges. I argue that judges might consider policy goals or goals related to making good law. If they choose to follow policy goals, they may attempt to do so using sincere or strategic means. Looking at two different units of analysis, I test hypotheses designed to test for the presence of three types of behavior. I follow up by looking at the relationship between the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court as an illustration of the potential implications of different types of behavior by court of appeals judges. My findings provide support for the argument that scholars should consider the possibility that court of appeals judges attempt to accomplish multiple goals and do so using multiple means. This suggests that a reexamination of the assumptions previously held by researchers who study the courts of appeals may want to be more explicit about the nature of their research and more careful when discussing the implications of their results.

Committee:

Lawrence Baum (Advisor)

Subjects:

Political Science, General

Keywords:

Judges; Judicial Behavior; Courts of Appeals

Kopko, Kyle CasimirThe Effect of Partisanship in Election Law Judicial Decision-Making
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2010, Political Science

This dissertation seeks to determine if, and to what extent, federal judges behave in a partisan manner when deciding politically salient election law cases. Specifically, do judges favor the interests of their political party, after controlling for judicial policy preferences? The main hypothesis that I seek to test is the relationship between case votes and the interests of a judge’s political party in a given election law case. I posit that when the judge’s political party benefits from a ruling for the plaintiff/defendant, a judge will be more likely to rule for the plaintiff/defendant. I also test four additional hypotheses, all of which should moderate the relationship between partisan interests and case votes. I test the effects of political career experience, age, court of appeals membership, and partisan panel composition on the likelihood of a judge ruling in favor of her political party.

To test these hypotheses, I model the case votes of federal district court and court of appeals judges in campaign finance, political party right to association, and redistricting cases from 1962 through 2007. To control for a judge’s policy preferences, I impute first and second dimension common space scores for all federal judges in my dataset. Of the three categories of election law cases examined in this dissertation, only the campaign finance models consistently produce a statistically significant partisanship effect. There is also evidence of a conditional partisanship effect in redistricting cases, which is contingent on the partisan composition of a three-judge district court. Additionally, judicial policy preferences are statistically significant predictors of judicial behavior in political party right to association and redistricting cases, and campaign finance cases that do not involve the interests of the Democratic and Republican Parties. While most political science models of judicial behavior emphasize policy preferences or a combination of law and policy preferences to explain and predict judicial behavior, the results of this dissertation provide evidence that social groups could be another important, systematic influence on judicial behavior. Specifically, these results suggests that judges hold separate sets of preferences: preferences for preferred in-groups (such as a political party) and policy preferences. Therefore, judicial scholars should consider, when appropriate, the influence of personally salient social in-groups when modeling judicial behavior.

While the influence of partisan preferences in any form is troubling, the results demonstrate that the effect of partisanship is not pervasive in all areas of election law. As such, policy makers should decide if any semblance of partisanship is unacceptable in the federal courts before considering any potential reforms or changes to the judiciary.

Committee:

Lawrence Baum, PhD (Advisor); Gregory Caldeira, PhD (Committee Member); Thomas Nelson, PhD (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Political Science

Keywords:

partisanship; election law; judicial behavior; judicial decision-making