Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology


This study tests the utility of a decision making model derived from structural organizational theory for understanding judicial decision making in a juvenile justice setting. The model describes the conditions under which selected legalistic and extralegal factors impact the likelihood that court dispositions will be severe. Using data from the South Dakota Unified Judicial System the study analyzes decisions made by two judges during a twelve month period. For the decisions of each judge, the study tests a series of hypothetical relationships between explanatory factors suggested by the model and the likelihood of being disposed to a juvenile corrections confinement. The explanatory factors include offense seriousness, offender personal characteristics, court workload, offense type, history of prior court involvement, and precedent setting prior court decisions. The findings of the study are supportive of the structural organizational perspective in that parts of the model regarding the impact of factors such as court workload and prior involvement with the court. The findings offer no support for a number of proposed interaction effects, however, indicating that other parts of the proposed model must be revised.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Judicial discretion

Judicial process

Juvenile justice, Administration of --- South Dakota



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University