Major: Political Science
Judicial Selection and the Death Penalty: Does the Merit System Remove Electoral Pressures?
Previous research shows that state Supreme Court judges in states where judges are elected through partisan elections tend to change their voting behavior to favor the death penalty right before an election. My research tested whether or not this would hold up in states that used a different method, the merit system, to appoint their judges.
Michele DeMary, associate professor of political science
I've developed a really strong working relationship with Dr. DeMary over the past four years as a student in her classes and as one of her academic advisees. Her own primary research emphasis is in state courts, which made working with her on this project a really interesting experience. Being able to discuss my findings with her and to bounce ideas off of her really helped me develop my paper. Since we both led somewhat hectic schedules during the day, we found ourselves meeting over breakfast at a local restaurant to discuss my paper throughout the semester. I think this is the kind of one-on-one attention you can only find at a place like Susquehanna.
For my paper, I had to develop a database of state Supreme Court cases from 1990-2000 in Florida, Oklahoma and Arizona. It ended up including about 450 cases and over 2,900 individual justice's votes. I developed a series of variables using a binary code, including things such as which way the court decided the case, how each justice voted and where the justice was in their term on the court. I then used this database to run my tests to determine whether or not my hypothesis, that the merit system would eliminate changes in the justices' behavior, was correct.
I think the biggest lesson I took from this process was that you can never be done perfecting a piece of written research. With each draft I found that there were always different options and directions that I could go with the paper. In the process of answering one question, it wasn't uncommon to develop a new question or find a place to expand the paper.
The spring of my junior year, I completed an internship through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Legislative Fellowship Program in Harrisburg. I was placed in the office of Rep. Mike Turzai from Alleghany County, who serves as the Republican Policy Chairman. My experiences led to a renewed summer internship and eventually a job offer. In May I will begin my new job as research analyst for the Republican Policy Committee. I do plan to further my education at some point, but haven't decided which direction I'd like to go. I plan to either attend law school or pursue a master’s in public policy administration.