Political Science Professor Awarded Nearly $145,000 to Study Judicial Decision Making

July 12, 2019

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Jennifer Bowie, associate professor of political science, has been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation for nearly $145,000 to study judicial decision making.

The three-year project explores the relationship between lower court judges and their Supreme Court counterparts in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Bowie and Ali Masood, assistant professor of political science at Rhodes College, will develop a database of information on appellate court decisions and conduct in-depth interviews with judges to develop a more nuanced understanding of the way judicial decisions are made. The research will provide insight on how judicial decisions are communicated between the Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts and how that indirectly or directly influences future decisions.

“In light of increasing caseloads within all three countries, intermediate appellate courts frequently decide and set policy on salient matters to the public, including immigration, taxation, abortion, as well as healthcare and environmental policy,” said Bowie. “It is important to better understand how these courts work, because they have the final say, especially if the issue surrounds a constitutional question.”

Bowie and Masood will be the first to research how lower courts in countries outside the U.S. implement or avoid the decisions made by their country’s Supreme Court.

“All three countries are democracies with highly independent judicial systems,” said Bowie. “Comparing these three systems will provide a richer understanding of how judicial decision-makers here in the U.S. and abroad influence policy.”

The grant funding will support Bowie’s travel as well as research assistant opportunities for underrepresented undergraduate students at UR.

Bowie has taught at University of Richmond since 2011. She is the author of A View from the Bench and Chambers, which examines judicial process and decision making on the U.S. Courts of Appeals and several journal articles. Bowie is also the editor of the Law and Politics Book Review.

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The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..." NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.