Supreme Issues : Utilizing Issue-Specific Measures of Judicial Behavior on the United States Supreme Court




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The vast scholarship on the United States Supreme Court has engaged seemingly all aspects of institutional and judicial behavior. From nomination politics, discretionary dockets, judicial preferences, and more, scholars have sought to theorize, measure and explain how justices make decisions and under which conditions those decisions are made. Most of the literature takes either a broad view of behavior where cases are placed in the same analytical space, or a refined view where a single legal issue or rule is examined for a narrow time period of the Court. This dissertation both disaggregates judicial behavior while broadening the analytical scope, so that a more refined measurement of judicial behavior is observed over a broad set of terms of the Court. I first build an original measure of judicial ideology, where I estimate issue-specific dynamic ideology for every justice from 1946 to 2015. I assert that this measurement scheme allows for more variation in judicial behavior to be observed than the existing aggregate level measures. I then utilize these ideology estimates to build an original measure of judicial polarization on the US Supreme Court. This second measurement allows for issue-specific polarization regimes to be estimated. Finally, I build expectations of opinion assignment by the chief justice based on said justice’s issue ideologies and the density of cases within each issue. Across the three chapters, issue-specific measures allow for greater variation in individual justice behavior to be observed, which opens avenues for future research questions to be investigated.



United States. -- Supreme Court, Judicial ethics, Political questions and judicial power, Judicial power, Law -- Political aspects


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