“How Do Judges Save Time: State Courts and the Opinion Writing Process?”
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 have now begun data collection and drafting chapters.
Over time, the expectations of judges have changed significantly due to an increased case load and case complexity, jurisdictional changes, and an ever-changing body of precedent and statutes. As a result, judges have had to adopt a variety of tactics to assist in their workload. This is especially true for judges serving on state supreme courts. In many ways, advancements in technology have allowed judges to adopt new strategies for successful case management. My dissertation seeks to identify mechanisms that state Supreme Court judges may be utilizing to achieve their professional goals especially during the opinion writing process. I am trying to identify what effect time management and the use of technology is having on the language, content, and quality of judicial opinions. I look at opinion length, citation rates, and plagiarism percentages to determine what “shortcuts” judges may be taking to maximize the number of goals they can achieve during the opinion-writing process.