Three Essays on the Role of Judicial Institutions in Environmental Governance

Many environmental decisions in the U.S. happen in the courts, where diverse interest groups iteratively renegotiate the meaning of laws to advance their conception of the public interest. So too for other areas of policy and for an increasing number of new and old democracies worldwide. The dissertation explores how the interaction between courts, interest groups and political institutions affect political compromise, the dynamics of laws and policy learning.

The first essay is a formal model that analyzes how citizen suits affect public spending and the provision of contentious public goods in the legislature, finding that citizen suits can facilitate reform and the search for compromise. The second essay is a network analysis of citation to legal precedent spanning all of american environmental law. The analysis tests two alternative theories of the interaction between law and politics. The third essay is a formal model asking whether the interaction between judges seeking legitimacy and elected officials seeking re-election can limit short-termist pandering.

Research Interests

Political economy of sustainable development, institutional analysis, human ecology, complex systems.

My aim is to develop a comparative political economy of sustainable development. In doing so, I aim to understand the constraints and opportunities of various institutional arrangements for responding to ecological and social challenges. Elements of this research agenda include 1) what forms of state-business relations can facilitate directed technical change? 2) how can we institutionalize the consideration of the long-term? 3) what is the political role of different forms of citizen participation? 4) can some institutions facilitate collective learning? 5) how do different types of property rights affect the robustness of social-ecological systems?