Dissertation: Judicial Independence in the American States

The special role courts play in a democracy requires designers of constitutions to consider the delicate trade-offs between judicial independence and democratic accountability.  This dissertation analyzes the decisional consequences of state supreme court institutional structures.  States utilize several types of election and elite reappointment, and each method carries a systematically different risk of incumbent defeat.  My theory predicts that as reappointment uncertainty increases, judicial independence decreases.  I define judicial independence as the degree to which judicial decisions are a reflection of how a judges sincerely sees the law.  I measure judicial independence by quantifying the external influence of partisan, elite, popular, and economic pressures applied to judges.  I consider the normative implications of the empirical findings for American constitutional design by considering a balanced approach between some form of the rule of law, as expressed through judicial independence, and popular constitutionalism, as expressed through democratic accountability.

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