Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



During the ratification debates the Federalists and Anti-federalists contested the merits of the civil jury. The Anti-federalists, preferring strong local government, argued that civil juries empowered communities to settle disputes themselves based on local standards. On the other hand, Federalists maintained that civil juries were outmoded and produced inconsistent applications of the law from one locale to another, jeopardizing the rule of law. Although the ratification debates ultimately ended with the inclusion of the Seventh Amendment guaranteeing the right to a jury trial in all disputes involving claims greater than $20, the disagreement between the Federalists and the Anti-federalists closely mirrors the current debate between advocates and opponents of tort reform. These persistent, normative questions regarding the role of civil juries in American society give rise to the empirical questions that my dissertation explores. First, are there differences in the way that civil juries resolve disputes and allocate resources from one community to another, and if there are, what factors explain and predict those differences? Secondly, are there similar differences across states in litigation outcomes? I endeavor to explain differences in civil trial outcomes based on social, political, and economic conditions, within and across states, using an original data set comprised of all 2009 cases decided in the Alabama, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee civil trial courts, including an in-depth analysis of Alabama trial courts using interviews conducted in the state and data collected from 2002-2009. My dissertation also explores the underexplored relationship between judicial selection method and trial court decision-making by comparing outcomes across partisan, nonpartisan, retention, and gubernatorial appointment selection systems. I also analyze the effect of tort reforms seeking to limit non-physical and punitive damage awards on amounts awarded across states.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Haynie, Stacia L.