My name is Jessica Schoenherr and I am a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Michigan State University. I study American politics and research methods, with a substantive focus on the United States Supreme Court.
My research broadly focuses on how attorneys influence Supreme Court decision making. Decades of scholarship reveals that some attorneys win (or lose) more than others, but this work focuses on coarse characteristics like whether they are experienced Supreme Court veterans or rookies. My research moves beyond these general features and instead focuses on the most important substantive aspect of what attorneys actually do: develop legal arguments in their written briefs.
My dissertation, Attorneys, Merits Briefs and U.S. Supreme Court Decision Making, examines how attorneys use written legal arguments to appeal to Supreme Court justices. In it, I suggest that skilled attorneys are better than novices at understanding how to strategically build a legal argument that appeals to the justices’ preferences, both legal and political. To conduct my analyses, I use data from an original dataset that I developed using a combination of hand-coding and machine learning techniques.
Outside of my dissertation work, I am also interested in Supreme Court confirmation hearings and am working on several projects about attorney strategies and skills. Summaries of my working papers are available on my Research page.
When not working hard in the name of science, I enjoy watching hockey and running long distances for no reason. I am an avid Detroit Red Wings fan and am confident our new general manager will return the team to its former glory. Running is my daily sanity check and also a wonderful way to see the world. I completed the Detroit Marathon in 2013 and try to run at least one half marathon every year. I also spend a lot of time with my dogs, Emma and Jack, who are my most faithful research assistants.