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2009 - Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference Words: 186 words || 
1. Mak, Maxwell. "Congress and the Court: The impact of congressional legislation and Supreme Court decisions on circuit court free exercise jurisprudence" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference, The Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2019-11-21 <>
Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: The conventional wisdom is that the Supreme Court sits atop the federal judiciary and lower courts adjudicate within this hierarchical constraint. In Smith (1990), the Supreme Court changed the test for religious free exercise cases from the strict scrutiny standard to something akin to rational basis. As expected, circuit courts adjusted decision-making to conform to the Court. With the passage of RFRA, previous research (Brent 1999, 2003), however, suggests that Congress also serves as a principal to the U.S. Courts of Appeals and, therefore, can constrain lower court jurisprudence. This paper reexamines the impact of Supreme Court free exercise jurisprudence on circuit court cases to decipher whether previous findings of congressional-impact can be explained by alternative explanations (i.e., case facts, legal questions, or judicial strategic behavior) other than the multiple principals hypothesis. Employing newly collected data, looking at a longer time period (1943-2006) as well as both facets of circuit court decision-making—case outcomes and judicial vote choice, the goal of this paper is to clarify the circuit courts’ relationships with Congress and the Court, the role of law, and their impacts on the choices judges make.

2016 - 87th SPSA Annual Conference Words: 222 words || 
2. Curry, Todd., Romano, Michael. and Romero, Richie. "The Impact of Lower Court Opinions on Higher Court Decisions in State Courts" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 87th SPSA Annual Conference, Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan 07, 2016 <Not Available>. 2019-11-21 <>
Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Members of the Court in individual states are responsible for interpreting and deciding cases on matters of great diversity with regard to the law. Despite the wide variability of laws, judges, and methods of selection within the states, little systematic research has been done to investigate what factors contribute to judges’ decisions and the crafting of judicial opinions. Specifically, how influential are lower courts at persuading judges on state Supreme Courts to affirm their opinions on legal questions and adopt similar language as the lower court? Previous research on the federal judiciary has found that lower courts, specifically the Court of Appeals, can influence the outcome of Supreme Court decisions in certain ways. Following Corley, Collins and Calvin's (2011) examination of the United States Supreme Court, we examine whether their conclusions about lower court influence on Supreme Court decisions hold when variation in the methods of selection, court professionalism, judicial tenure, and other factors unique to state-level analyses, are introduced. In order to examine the effect of state-level factors on the level of co-opting of lower court language by a state’s Supreme Court, we sample ten states based on variations in their methods of selection and create a dataset sampling opinions from both the state Supreme Court and the state’s Court of Appeals from 2010 to 2013.

2017 - ICA's 67th Annual Conference Words: 346 words || 
3. Spiesel, Christina. "Bystander Video in Two Courts: The Court of Law and the Court of Public Opinion" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ICA's 67th Annual Conference, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, San Diego, USA, <Not Available>. 2019-11-21 <>
Publication Type: Session Paper
Abstract: This paper examines the interpretative mechanisms at play when dealing with bystander video in the court of law and the court of public opinion. In a legal context, bystander videos include cell phone videos made by people accidentally at the depicted scene, and those that are the outputs of mechanical devices like fixed surveillance cameras as well as footage from dashboard cameras, body cameras, and Tasers. When bystander video has legal relevance and enters legal proceedings, it can profoundly affect people’s lives both for individual outcomes and for our understanding of our social order. But just because bystander video can have big effects does not make its meaning any clearer. It must be interpreted even if it does not seem to show us much of the scene it depicts. It is this interpretive problem of bystander video evidence that concerns me. What does a video fragment actually depict? What do we need to know about the underlying technologies? What different stories might the video segment substantiate both inside and outside the courtroom? I explore these questions in two recent cases—that have not yet gone to trial—of police officers accused of lethal shooting of African American men, Laquan MacDonald in 2014 in Chicago, Illinois and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2016. Dashcam footage of the MacDonald shooting was only released after a Freedom of Information Act request followed by a suit by an independent journalist. Once released, it received broad coverage in mainstream media. The television reports differed in the way they structured the coverage, providing a variety of versions of the story. The death of Alton Sterling was recorded both by cell phone and by surveillance footage. The surveillance footage from the site was removed by the police; two cell phone versions—recorded and circulated by witnesses—were made public. When the cases of the accused officers go to trial, both the participants in the trials and the public at large will have to grapple with problems of video interpretation. In outlining these problems, this paper proposes ways to think critically about video evidence.

2008 - ASC Annual Meeting Words: 202 words || 
4. Heath, Sarah. "Court Culture and Court Efficiency: The Study of Two Eastern Ontario Bail Courts" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASC Annual Meeting, St. Louis Adam's Mark, St. Louis, Missouri, Nov 11, 2008 <Not Available>. 2019-11-21 <>
Publication Type: Poster
Abstract: Court efficiency is an issue worthy of scholarly attention in the field of criminology. Most obviously, the inability of a court to process cases in a timely manner can result in the termination of cases, the denial of the fundamental right to justice and the potential perception by the public that the criminal justice system is unfair (Leverick & Duff, 2002; Ashworth, 1994; Church, 1982). Within the specific context of bail court, decisions should arguably be determined quickly, as even a short period of time in custody can have devastating effects on a person’s life (Varma, 2002; Hucklesby, 1997; Rumgay, 1995). This paper intends to examine the possible relationship between court culture (the beliefs, expectations, and informal customs shared among court personnel) and court efficiency. Through a comparison of two Eastern Ontario bail courts with varying levels of court efficiency (measured by the number of bail appearances that a case requires - on average - to complete the bail process), this study explores the characteristics of both an efficient and inefficient court, comparatively and applies these characteristics to what has been found in previous research on court culture (most notably Leverick and Duff’s (2002) analysis of passive and proactive Scottish magistrate courts).

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