Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

Political Science-BA


History & Political Science


Dr. Rachel Schwartz

First Committee Member

Dr. Rachel Schwartz

Second Committee Member

Dr. Nicolas Robinson

Third Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Mills


Judiciary, Process Tracing, Judicial Selection, Partisanship

Subject Categories

American Politics | Constitutional Law | Courts | Higher Education | Judges | Jurisdiction | Jurisprudence | Law and Politics | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility | Legal History | Legal Writing and Research | Legislation | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


This thesis joins the conversation on judicial selection and impacts on judicial ideology. This is a multifaceted question that engages with the history of judicial selection, differences between states, growing polarization and partisanship, and an influx in campaign spending that can all influence Justices’ behavior while on the bench. While other theorists have used more quantitative or statistical analytics, more research is still needed on the nuanced and qualitative questions surrounding the judiciary in the United States, especially on the state level. I look at three Ohio Supreme Court Justices—Maureen O’Connor, Jennifer Brunner, and Sharon Kennedy—and decisions they have penned in three categories of case—criminal justice, low salience, and redistricting—to understand what factors influence judicial behavior. This process-tracing method showed that political affiliation and, to a lesser extent,positive public sentiment, influence judicial behavior, while amicus briefs and financial contributions were not directly impactful but are still relevant to the questions emerging in this area of legal scholarship. These findings are significant as they come at a point of major change in Ohio’s judicial selection: a move from the semi-partisan Michigan-Ohio method elections to the fully partisan elections introduced in 2022 by Senate Bill 80 (SB80). This research also emphasizes the importance of State Supreme Courts, an area under-researched in the field and lacking public engagement. By exploring these questions, this thesis is relevant not only to Ohio’s modern bench but also encourages research on federal courts and other state benches as well.

Licensing Permission

Copyright, all rights reserved. Fair Use

Acknowledgement 1


Acknowledgement 2