Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Political Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation incorporates the study of heuristics into the field of judicial behavior. Heuristics, or mental shortcuts used for quick decision-making, have repeatedly been shown to affect the ability of everyday humans to make rational choices. Experimental evidence suggests that judges are no less susceptible to this type of decision-making, relying on their own preconceived prejudices and sympathies to make decisions regardless of the legal or ideological characteristics of a case. But this evidence is subject to external validity concerns. Do judges still rely on potentially problematic heuristics when they make decisions in front of the parties and their colleagues in a courtroom? In this dissertation, I argue that they do. I find evidence of heuristic decision-making in three unique contexts using real-world observational data. First, I show that physically attractive attorneys have greater success in the US Courts of Appeals. Second, I reveal the prevalence of home-state favoritism in federal environmental pollution disputes. Third, I demonstrate that the time of year in which a case is argued influences the collegiality of the US Supreme Court. Combined, these findings raise serious modeling concerns for judicial researchers and equally serious normative concerns for anyone that interacts with the US court system.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Lee Epstein

Committee Members

Pauline Kim


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Available for download on Tuesday, May 20, 2025