Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Michael A. Zilis


Interaction and overlap between branches of government in a separation of powers system is important for maintaining the checks and balances central to democracy. In this dissertation, I examine the effects of executive and judicial branch interaction. This work meaningfully contributes to our understanding of the nature and impacts of executive branch presence in judicial affairs.

In the first chapter, I look at perceptions of presidential influence in Supreme Court justices’ decision-making process. I analyze a national representative survey to examine the conditions under which respondents are willing to credit the president with influence over the decision-making process at the Supreme Court. I find that respondents who attribute the president with having had influence over the decision in the case also report significantly lower levels of legitimacy. This finding has important implications for presidential credit-claiming activity of the Court and highlights how legitimacy may rest in the perceived political neutrality of decisions.

In the next chapter, I field an original survey experiment to examine how priming of solicitor general involvement in Supreme Court cases might influence support for the solicitor general, support for the case at hand, and overall legitimacy. The results indicate that respondents support a strong and independent solicitor general, however, these attributes lead to less specific support for the decision. I also find that solicitor general behavior in a case may influence not only specific support, but legitimacy perceptions among Democrats. This asymmetric finding by party highlights the importance of understanding the differences in legitimacy determinants among different partisans.

In the final chapter, I develop an original dataset of amicus briefs submitted by state attorneys general offices to state high courts and consider how presence of a state solicitor as an author on the brief, alongside state contextual factors, influence the use of political language on briefs. I find that, perhaps optimistically, solicitor general presence does not significantly influence the use of overt political language, though other contextual factors seem to matter for political language. However, I find some support for partisan asymmetries in language usage as well.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Ken and Mary Sue Coleman, Chris and Vicki Gorman, and Penny Miller Graduate Student Summer Fellowship- 2022, 2023

S. Sidney and Margaret L. Ulmer Endowed Scholarship- 2022