I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. My research focuses on comparative political institutions, with an emphasis on the consequences of institutions for the performance of modern liberal democracy. My primary interest is in studying the behavior of constitutional courts in the context of separation of powers systems.
My dissertation project, Institutions and the Performance of Liberal Democracy: Judicial Procedures and the Efficacy of Constitutional Review, theorizes about the consequences of judicial institutions for the quality of democratic governance. Contemporary liberal democracies typically rely on courts with the power of constitutional review to serve as a check against state violations of fundamental rights. The efficacy of this review, however, is limited by courts' reliance on other political institutions for the implementation of judicial decisions. As a result, the performance of liberal democracies on the key issue of protecting rights depends critically on the ability of constitutional courts to induce other political institutions to comply with adverse rulings. In my dissertation, I argue that a court can use its discretion over two key judicial procedures, public oral hearings and the timing of decisions, to induce compliance by manipulating public awareness of unconstitutional actions by the executive and legislature. I support my argument with a game theoretic model, empirical analysis of decisions from the German Constitutional Court, and a qualitative study of a recent case decided by the German Constitutional Court.
My paper, ``The Politics of Judicial Procedures: The Role of Public Oral Hearings at the German Constitutional Court", is based on the formal theoretic and quantitative analysis of public oral hearings in the dissertation. This paper received the Neal Tate Award for Best Paper in Judicial Politics at the 2015 Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association and has recently been accepted for publication at the American Journal of Political Science. The latest version of this paper can be found here.
Beyond the dissertation, I am involved in a number of projects examining the performance of modern liberal democracy. In one project, I consider contexts where courts are held in low public regard and examine the implications of low public support for the decision by courts. In that setting, I argue we would expect the court to face higher noncompliance with rulings that are publicized, as the electoral costs would be minimal. This argument implies that we should see courts vary in how they pursue or avoid publicity conditional on their level of public support. I investigate this by comparing how courts with high and low levels of public support vary in the timing of their decisions. Election campaigns typically increase press and public attention to all political matters, including constitutional review. Consequently, rulings issued in that period garner greater pubic awareness, which should be good for popular courts and bad for unpopular courts. If the courts are concerned with compliance, we should therefore see unpopular courts avoid ruling against government officials as elections near. I examine this empirically with data on the timing of rulings by the European Court of Justice. The latest version of this paper can be found here.
Other works in progress include projects in comparative judicial politics on issues of noncompliance, references for preliminary rulings from the European Court of Justice, and the political impact of empowering a constitutional court with abstract review. In addition, I am engaged in a research project examining the long term public opinion effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act decision. My interest in the consequences of institutions for democratic performance is not, however, limited to the study of courts. I am engaged in projects addressing the creation, maintenance, and use of normatively justified legislative procedures such as roll call votes and legislative minority rights. In addition, I have brought my methodological training to bear in a project with Professor Sunita Parikh on collective violence in India.