Dissertation Project

Judicial behavior in property rights institutions: Evidence from Russian courts

My dissertation looks at judicial behavior in property rights institutions in Russia, focusing on the process of judicial selection and its consequences for judicial decision-making and judicial evaluation. In Chapter 1, I develop a theory of judicial selection where I argue that autocrats are more likely to appoint loyal candidates who can be relied on to rule cases in favor of the state. I further contend that whether a candidate is considered to be loyal is dependent on their susceptibility to political pressure, with judges coming from the public sector (e.g. court apparatus, prosecutor’s office, or investigative services) being especially vulnerable due to their lack of employment options outside of the state. In Chapters 2-4, I test the implications of this theory using original data on the career paths of judges and more than 200,000 court cases spanning the last decade. In Chapter 2, I examine judicial decision-making in the district economic courts using the random assignment of cases to judges. In Chapter 3, I look at the evaluations of these decisions in the appellate economic courts, relying on the random assignment of cases to panels. Finally, in Chapter 4, I explore decision-making in the district criminal courts, this time focusing on the severity of sentencing decisions in cases rather than case outcomes. This project has been supported through research grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York through the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, as well as the Hilton Center for Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity at Florida State University.