Distinctiveness of Supreme Court Media Coverage
Abstract: To what extent does the Supreme Court's media coverage support a view of the Supreme Court that leads to broad diffuse support for the institution? While previous studies have examined this question, to date media coverage of the Court has been studied in isolation. I argue that this presents an incomplete picture because the way citizens view judicial issues covered by the media is likely to be impacted by the broader political coverage of those issues. As a result, understanding the similarity in media coverage between the Supreme Court and other institutions is important to understanding how the media impacts support for the court. In this paper, I address this question using an original dataset consisting of the text of New York Times articles on the Supreme Court and Congress scraped from the web covering a period of 17 years. I look for similarity in coverage in two ways. First, I examine the error of an ensemble model that predicts article tags. Second, I compare topic prevalence across articles on the two institutions over time utilizing an automated structural topic model. I find that media coverage of the two institutions is very distinct across a broad array of policy areas, indicating that media portrayal of the Supreme Court presents a view of an independent institution with a policy agenda mostly distinct from Congress.
Do Adversarial Systems Improve Court Efficiency? A Study of Criminal Justice Reform in Mexico
Abstract: Are adversarial trial systems more efficient than inquisitorial systems? Civil law countries have been implementing adversarial trial reforms in their criminal justice systems in recent decades, backed by a considerable body of theoretical scholarship contending that adversarial trial systems are more efficient. Despite the enormous cost of these reforms, there are few empirical studies on their impact and many scholars remain skeptical that they have any effect. Further, there is little theoretical consideration of how adversarial reforms affect efficiency beyond the case stage. I contribute to this literature by considering two channels by adversarial reforms might have an impact. I analyze the case of Mexico using a difference-in-differences design that accounts for prominent alternative explanations like legal culture or professionalism. I find evidence that adversarial trial reforms do increase judicial efficiency, and that they do so at least partly through impacting prosecutor's decisions on filing cases. This finding has a number of important implications for judicial institutions and rule of law, as well as for inference of post-reform outcomes.
The Value of a Captured Judiciary
Abstract: Prominent theories of the value of judicial institutions focus on the value of independent judicial institutions. The logic is that independent judicial institutions can help governments credibly commit to refrain from expropriative action, and this attracts investment and spurs growth. Yet, empirically many regimes do not have independent courts, and many of these regimes still receive substantial amounts of investment. Using a formal model of the interaction between an investing firm and a state, I present a theory of the value that a captured judiciary can present to both firms and authoritarian regimes in order to explain this puzzle. I find that, when government compliance with judicial rulings is not taken as a given, regime-captured courts will generate outcomes that result in less overall expropriation for private firms compared to autonomous courts.
Technocrats at Court: Does Expertise Sway International Courts? (with Cliff Carrubba, Matthew Gabel, and Joshua Fjelstul)
Abstract: Under what conditions can we expect bureaucracies to choose to provide international courts with third-party briefs? Under what conditions can we expect these briefs to influence the courts’ rulings? Carrubba and Gabel (2014) find that the European Court of Justice is more likely to rule in favor of a litigant when the Commission submits a brief on its behalf — a finding that is robust to controlling for the position of the advocate general. Motivated by this empirical puzzle, we develop a case-space model that examines the strategic interaction between the Commission and the Court of Justice. We analyze this model and test it with data from the European Union in order to examine how differences in preferences and differences in expertise drive how the Commission chooses to participate in court cases and how the Court defers to the Commission's opinion.