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. Justin Wedeking


When and how do Supreme Court justices choose to interact with the public? What motivating factors spur a justice to make a public appearance? In the fields of political science, public law, and legal studies, research has overwhelmingly studied on-the-bench behavior. Scholars have analyzed judicial voting patterns, opinion writing, oral arguments, and more. Despite the prevalence and importance of non-decision making activities as well as the growing reporting by media outlets concerning justices' public appearances, there remains a lack of attention devoted to exploring how justices behave off-the-bench. In this dissertation, I seek to develop this neglected area within judicial politics. Specifically, I examine one common element of off-the-bench behavior: The act of going public. I build a novel dataset of every instance of a justice going public from 2000-2022 in order to better understand judicial appearances. I explore this concept with three primary questions. First, when do justices go public? Because justices and their appearances are understudied, I begin by documenting that justices do regularly go public, have been doing so at an increasing pace, and multiple factors shape their decision of when to go public. Second, how do justices go public? I utilize the data I collect to showcase that justices are intentional in their choices of what audiences to speak to, what appearance form to use (speeches, television appearances, teaching, or public statements), and what to say in these appearances. Third, why do justices go public? I posit a variety of instrumental and non-instrumental forces cause a justice to make a public appearance. I find that public appearances are strategic and based on a myriad of factors including the Court's approval rating, ideology, and demographic factors. Collectively, my findings depict the behavior justices choose to adopt in their off-the-bench behavior and how this behavior has changed over time. More broadly, this dissertation speaks to important subjects including communication by elite actors, the relationship between the Court and the public, and strategic behavior.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)