My research interests include Judicial Politics, Supreme Court Institutional Legitimacy, Judicial Opinion Writing, Text as Data Methods, and Identity Politics
"Constitutional Dogma: Mythologizing Methods of Constitutional Interpretation"
Committee: Joshua Strayhorn (Chair), Vanessa Baird, John Griffin
Why do Supreme Court justices proselytize methods of Constitutional interpretation, even when they barely use them? Even more puzzling, why does the public report having a preferred method of Constitutional interpretation when they know so little about the law? The usage and impact of methods of Constitutional interpretation motivate this project. I argue that the Supreme Court uses methods of Constitutional interpretation as a tool to mask ideological decision-making and garner legitimacy. Litigants will then use these methods in an attempt to persuade and/or constrain the Court into handing down favorable outcomes. In response, the public attributes ideological decision-making to reliance on particular methods of interpretation, allowing them to reconcile their competing desires for a legalistic Court that consistently produces ideological victories. I will test the Supreme Court’s use of interpretation methods by developing a text-data classification method to categorize Supreme Court opinions by interpretation method and test when and why the Court strategically uses interpretation methods as justification for their decisions. To test litigant use of interpretation methods, I will determine under which circumstances litigants use them and whether they are successful. I will test public response to interpretation methods by using an experimental design to determine whether people accept decisions they disagree with if they are attributed to a method of Constitutional interpretation. The results of this project will shed light on an under-studied area of judicial politics and provide greater insight into the relevance of methods of Constitutional interpretation throughout the judiciary.
Jensen, Alex, Madeline Mader, Srinivas "Chinnu" Parinandi, Anand Edward Sokhey, and Michael Montgomery Byrd. "Growth, Demographics, Slavery, and Voting in U.S. Gubernatorial Elections, 1840-1860." Journal of Historical Political Economy. Forthcoming.