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Title: Essays on Supreme Court Agenda-Setting
Authors: Johnson, Benjamin Bryant
Advisors: Canes-Wrone, Brandice
Whittington, Keith
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Certiorari
Judicial Behavior
Judicial Politics
Public Law
Supreme Court
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Supreme Court is an important political institution and a frequent subject of study in both the social sciences and law. And while political science has long recognized the importance of agenda-setting, studies of agenda-setting at the Supreme Court---which is handled through the Court's certiorari docket---are relatively scarce. This dissertation examines agenda-setting at the Court using three distinctive sets of tools. First, it uses statistical tools to better understand the Court empirically. Secondly, it formally explores the dynamic nature of the justices' decisions as they fill the docket. Third, it builds on the prior analyses to explore the legal implications of the Court's certiorari practice. The dissertation sheds new light on old questions, raises new possibilities within the study of judicial politics, and offers new challenges and opportunities for the study of courts and political institutions more broadly. "Estimating Ideal Points at the Supreme Court Using Agenda-Setting Votes" builds and estimates a structural model of decision-making using a new dataset of hand-coded certiorari votes. The model provides more stable ideal point measures and new estimates of justices' willingness to take cases. "The (Surprisingly Small) Role of Policy Preferences in Supreme Court Agenda-Setting" asks whether justices are motivated by law or policy. In contrast to previous studies of the Court, it finds justices are not single-minded pursuers of policy. The third paper, "Dynamic Committee Decision-Making" takes up the question of how a committee (such as the Court) fills up a docket. It shows that sometimes even justices are willing to vote in favor of taking cases they will lose: accepting a small loss now to head off a worse loss later. The final paper, "The Supreme Court's Political Docket," builds on the empirical and formal work in earlier papers to examine the intersection of law and politics in the certiorari process. It finds evidence that the Chief Justice has previously unexamined power in the cert process and proposes a series of reforms to improve agenda-setting at the Court. As such, the dissertation uses a wide-range of tools to understand an important and understudied political and legal process.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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