Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Ethics and Accountability on the U.S. Supreme Court: An Analysis of Recusal Practices.  Albany, NY: Suny Press (expected Fall 2017)

Ethics and Accountability on the U.S. Supreme Court is an original research monograph that provides a comprehensive examination of the causes and consequences of recusal behavior on the U.S. Supreme Court.  I explore the conditions under which recusals occur, as well as the impact of recusals on case outcomes, the scope of majority opinions, the likelihood of certiorari grants, and public attitudes about the Court.  I trace the evolution of media commentary about recusals, showing how popular discourse about recusals has become politicized and is inflaming demands for reform.  I also provide readers with a rich historical overview of the Court’s recusal practices and describe and evaluate proposals for reforming the process.  My key finding is that the justices do not strictly follow the recusal guidelines set by Congress, but neither do they ignore these guidelines.  Instead, the justices are strategic in their compliance with ethical rules, balancing Congressional guidelines against other institutional and policy goals.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

"Deciding Not to Decide: The Politics of Recusals on the U.S. Supreme Court." 2014. Law & Society Review.  48 (3): 621-655.
 When are U.S. Supreme Court justices more likely to recuse themselves from cases?  This article proposes a strategic model of recusal behavior, hypothesizing that the justices balance statutory guidelines concerning recusals against other policy and institutional goals.  Using data from the Supreme Court Database, I find evidence that recusal behavior is influenced by a combination of statutory, policy, and institutional considerations.  Consistent with statutory explanations, which emphasize the elimination of bias or its appearance, justices are more likely to recuse themselves from cases when business interests are before the Court, they have served for shorter terms, and they have previously acted as Solicitor General.  However, I also find that the justices are less likely to recuse themselves when cases are likely to be close or when the justices’ policy goals are likely to be advanced by participating.  These findings suggest that while the justices do follow statutory recusal guidelines, they also have other institutional and policy incentives that lead them to participate in cases despite their conflicts of interest.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights: Same-Sex Marriage in the States. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2013.



In Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights: Same-Sex Marriage in the States, Robert J. Hume examines how the democratization of state courts and state constitutional systems has influenced the capacity of judges to protect minority rights. Through an intensive examination of same-sex marriage policy, Hume shows that democratic innovations like judicial elections and initiative amendment procedures have conditioned the impact of judges on state marriage laws. Using a combination of original and publicly available data, Hume demonstrates that "courthouse democracy" has influenced the behavior of state judges, the reactions of the public to state court decisions, and the long-term policy consequences of these decisions, including the passage of state constitutional amendments. Hume concludes that judges will be capable of producing meaningful social change-and protecting minority rights-only when they have the institutional resources that they need to stand against popular opinion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

“State Courts and Policy Legitimation: An Experimental Study of the Ability of State Courts to Change Opinion.” 2012.  Publius: The Journal of Federalism 42(2): 211-233.
Legitimacy theory suggests that judges are uniquely capable of increasing public support for government policies. However, this capacity may not be universal but conditional, depending on the institutional design of courts. In the United States, institutional differences between federal and state courts may make state judiciaries less capable of increasing public support for government policies. I investigate this possibility using an original survey experiment. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of three treatments, attributing the legalization of same-sex marriage to a state court, a governor, or a state legislature. I find, generally, that state courts are no more effective than other state institutions at building public support, but that this capacity of courts is variable, depending on levels of judicial independence.

Monday, January 10, 2011

“Comparing Institutional and Policy Explanations for the Adoption of State Constitutional Amendments: The Case of Same-Sex Marriage.”  2011.  American Politics Research 39: 1097-1126. 
The literature on state constitutional amendments remains undeveloped despite recent activity in the area of same-sex marriage policy.  Previous studies have assumed that the adoption of state constitutional amendments is governed by routine policy considerations, but there are strong theoretical reasons for expecting attributes of state institutions also to affect adoption.  In this study, I compare institutional and policy explanations for the enactment of state constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage.  While I expect routine policy considerations to affect the adoption of amendments, I also expect adoption to be influenced by attributes of state institutions, in particular the capacity of state high courts to produce decisions favoring marriage equality.  Using event history analysis, I find that the initial consideration of amendments is driven by policy considerations but that adoption is also guided by institutional considerations, such as the professionalization of state high courts. 
“Strategic Instrument Theory and the Use of Non-Authoritative Sources by Federal Judges: Explaining References to Law Review Articles.” 2010.  Justice System Journal 31: 291-315. 
When do judges include references to non-authoritative sources such as law review articles in their opinions?  Do strategic motivations account for the use of these sources?  This study evaluates strategic explanations for citations to non-authoritative sources by examining the citation of law review articles by judges on the U.S. Courts of Appeals.   It is hypothesized that judges are more likely to cite law review articles when they anticipate opposition to their policy choices from other actors who have power to limit or overturn their decisions, such as Supreme Court justices and other judges on the panel.  The study also controls for other potential explanations for citations to law review articles, such as opinion writer ideology, judicial quality, and workload.  The findings provide empirical support for the strategic model of judicial behavior, demonstrating that judges tend to cite more broadly in the face of conflict

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Courting Multiple Audiences: The Strategic Selection of Legal Groundings by Judges on the U.S. Courts of Appeals." 2009. Justice System Journal 30: 14-33.
This study considers whether judges on the U.S. Courts of Appeals select legal groundings based on the expected responses of multiple audiences. It is hypothesized that judges use reasoning-process review when their policies depart from the preferences of higher-court judges and other actors who have the power to overturn their decisions, but use substantive groundings when they wish to broadcast their policies to judges in different circuits. The study uses the Judicial Common Space scores to compare panel ideologies with the preferences of Supreme Court justices, judges in other circuits, judges from the same circuit, and Congress. The results indicate that the choice of legal grounding does vary depending on a panel’s level of agreement with different actors, providing further empirical support for the strategic model of judicial behavior.

Monday, August 04, 2008

How Courts Impact Federal Administrative Behavior. 2009. New York, NY: Routledge.

What impact do federal courts have on the administrative agencies of the federal government? How do agencies react to the decisions of federal courts? My book takes up these questions by examining the responses of federal agencies to the U.S. Courts of Appeals, revealing what happens inside agencies after courts rule against them. I use an original database to examine whether judicial opinions systematically influence administrative behavior, including whether agencies file certiorari petitions following adverse decisions, the amount of policy change they enact and the timing of their responses, and whether administrators cite circuit court decisions as precedent in subsequent proceedings. I also draw upon dozens of interviews with current and former administrators, taking readers behind the scenes of these organizations to reveal their internal procedures, their attitudes about courts, and their capacity to be influenced by a judge’s choice of words.

"The Impact of Judicial Opinion Language on the Transmission of Federal Circuit Court Precedents." 2009. Law & Society Review 43: 127-150.
This study examines the transmission of routine precedents among federal circuit court judges, using a sample of cases involving administrative law. It is hypothesized that citation patterns vary depending on features of judicial opinions, such as the legal grounding, the amount of supporting evidence, and the decision to sign the opinion. These features provide information about the importance of cases, which influences whether judges in other circuits cite them. The results affirm that judicial opinion language influences citation patterns but that additional factors also matter, such as the number of times a precedent has been cited within its circuit of origin, the ideological compatibility of a precedent with the preferences of other judges, and independent signals of case importance. The findings are significant because they suggest that judges who care about policy and are willing to take affirmative steps to encourage citations to their opinions have the capacity to influence whether judges in other circuits cite them.