Judicial independence in the American states
Blake, William Dawes
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The special role courts play in a democracy requires designers of constitutions to consider the delicate trade-offs between democratic accountability and judicial independence. This dissertation analyzes the decisional consequences of state supreme court institutional structures. States utilize several types of election and elite reconfirmation, and each method carries a systematically different risk of incumbent defeat. My theory predicts that as reappointment uncertainty increases, judicial independence decreases. I define judicial independence as decisions made by judges using only considerations that are internal to the rule of law. I measure judicial independence by quantifying the external influence of partisan, elite, popular, and economic pressures applied to judges. I conclude by considering the normative implications of the empirical findings. Because judicial independence is a problem of optimization, not maximization, constitutional designers hope to strike a balance between some form of judicial accountability, popular constitutionalism, and judicial independence.