“How Do Judges Save Time: Managing the Work of State Supreme Courts
Committee Co-Chairs: Dr. Michael P. Fix and Dr. Robert Howard
Committee Member: Dr. Amy Steigerwalt
“There is not some special magic to good legal writing. To be a good legal writer, honestly, is to know the law, and to be a good writer.”
~Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Supreme Court of the United States~
Status: I successfully defended my prospectus in February 2018. I currently working on data collection and my empirical chapters.
Over time, the workload expectations of judges have changed significantly due to larger caseloads, more complex cases, jurisdictional changes, and an evolving body of precedent and statutes. In turn, these changes have had an impact on the quality and content of judicial opinions. Judges have had to strategically adopt a variety of tactics to assist in the writing process. This is especially true of judges serving on state supreme courts. Advancements in technology and short-cuts in the writing process have allowed judges to adapt new strategies for case management. My dissertation seeks to identify some of the mechanisms that state supreme court judges may be using to save time and better achieve their professional goals. Using original opinion content data from 1995-2005 for thirteen state supreme courts, I examine citation rates, opinion length, citation patterns, and plagiarism scores to determine to what extent time management tactics, professional qualities, and access to technology have on the content and quality of opinions.