Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Political Science


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Andrew Martin


Over forty years after Richardson and Vines: 1967) complained that federal courts have seldom been investigated as a system of interactions," the same problem continues to plague judicial scholarship, particularly concerning federal district courts. Viewed as the sum of its three essays, this dissertation project seeks to remedy this deficit. The project relies on the collection and coding of thousands of case dockets, opinions, and other court documents across multiple years: 2000-2006 for essay 1, 2000-2004 for essays 2 and 3), nearly 30 district courts, and numerous issues areas that together account for about 40 percent of federal district court civil filings. The project evaluates three questions related to placing placing district courts in the judicial hierarchy. Question 1 tests the influence of case developments and actor characteristics on the disposition method: settlement, non-trial adjudication, and trial) and winning party in district court civil cases. With Question 2, I examine what features lead to a change in a case's winning party and disposition method after the case has been appealed and remanded back to the district court. Finally, Question 3 models the decision of a losing litigant to appeal to the courts of appeals and captures the implications of this decision for the outcome of the case on appeal. The result is that this project provides unprecedented insights into the development of law, the strategies of parties, the managerial role of judges, the influence of appellate judges and appellate opinions, and the overall place of federal district courts in the judicial hierarchy.


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