Honors Program

Midway Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Colin Glennon

Thesis Professor Department

Political Science, International Affairs, and Public Administration

Thesis Reader(s)

Kimberly Wilson


Contrasted with the other branches of government, the Supreme Court has long been an institution posing a level of secretiveness equal to its power. Naturally, that has developed a desire, and maybe necessity, to gain a better understanding regarding the principal influences of judicial decision making on America’s highest Court. One phenomenon that has long been of interest to Court observers is the notion of the justice’s voting across established ideological lines. Previous attempts to explain and reconcile cross-ideological votes have focused on the influence of external actors on the Court, its legitimacy, public opinion, and dynamics between justices. Yet, there remains a need to scrutinize the types of cases most likely to produce cross-ideological votes among justices in order to offer explanatory factors as to when a particular cross-ideological vote occurs. Often ignored in the quest to ascertain factors influencing particular justices and the Court as a whole, is the need for a study of case topics and the ability of these topics to correlate to an unexpected vote by a justice. In this thesis, I analyze which legal issues embedded within Supreme Court cases are most likely to produce cross-ideological votes among justices. I then propose a theory for predicting what issue areas are most likely to produce cross-ideological votes among Supreme Court justices in the future. In this research, I find that the issue area of criminal procedure correlates to the largest number of cross-ideological votes by Supreme Court members. Interestingly, I also find that conservative and liberal justices are equally inconsistent in voting concerning criminal procedure cases.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.