Abstract: the influence of clerks on opinions

I  will be studying the amount of influence Supreme Court clerks have on the opinions of the justices they serve under. I hope to determine how much of an opinion is written by the justice and how much of it is the clerk’s own writing. Clerks are a significant part of the judicial system. They are found at nearly every level, serving under judges in order to give them more time to hear cases, rather than writing and filing smaller items 0f paperwork. However, even this smaller work can be legally complicated, such as drafting opinions that the court will issue or successfully comprehending a legal document being dictated by a judge, so many clerks, especially in higher courts, are either completing or have completed law school. As a result, they have their own thoughts on how rulings might be made. I mentioned earlier that they might be called upon to draft opinions. In the Supreme Court, many justices are old enough or frustrated enough that there are rumors that their clerks may not only draft their opinions, they may entirely write them. The possibility of shadow justices serving without consent of the Senate and without appointment by the president under aging, inexperienced, or disinterested justices is very interesting to me. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding bureaucratic discretion in the executive branch when it comes to enforcement of federal laws, but it is often taken for granted the judicial branch is run entirely by trusted and validated judges. If I can find a connection between opinions supposedly written by the most intellectual judges in the country and works written by their clerks, I could then conclude that the justice department too had its fair share of bureaucratic decision makers. The research I am proposing will, for reasons of time, only cover one or two clerks under an especially disengaged justice, such as Justice Thurgood Marshall during his later years of disinterest in the Court, or Justice Powell in 1971 during the period when he was too new to the bench to feel comfortable writing his own opinions in full.

[Read more…]

Abstract – Optimization of Tribe Pathways

With my freshman research project, I propose to create a program that will use data from the walkways on the William & Mary campus to calculate the shortest route from one point to another based off a set of conditions. These conditions will allow users to avoid specific paths per their limitations or desires. Examples of these conditions would be paths with stairways in them, unpaved walkways, or paths that go through forested areas. The program will allow students to select a starting point, an ending point, and to decide which kind of pathways they want to avoid or include before calculating the shortest path they can take based on the remaining walkways. To calculate the shortest route, I will be implementing Dijkstra’s Algorithm into python. This algorithm will calculate the optimal path on a graph of connected nodes based on distance. I hope to help students who are new to campus, those that cannot use stairways or other potentially difficult obstacles, or anyone who wishes to find a faster path to class.

Abstract: The Effect of Advertising Cost on the Variability of Appeal to Viewers in TV Commercials

TV commercials are generally considered nuisances at best, yet there are many people who tune in to the Super Bowl every year not for the sport, but for the ads.  As a result, the demand for advertisement space during the Super Bowl is enormous, driving the price of airtime up sharply.  Companies often use this opportunity to reach a large portion of the U.S. population to unveil a new product or ad campaign during their 15 or 30 seconds.  Most of the time, however, commercials are run only during TV shows with similar target audiences to the company buying airtime.  Ads are targeted at middle aged men on daytime ESPN, and at DIYers on HGTV.  This research will attempt to quantify the increase in variety when the price of ad space increases.

Abstract — Oxygen Reduction by Iron Complexes for Solar Energy Conversion

There is evidence in nature that suggests that the energy supplies primarily in use, notably coal, contribute to pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. The abundance of these gases, which leads to climate change and global warming, continues to rise due to the consumption of fossil fuels. The McNamara Lab seeks to harness solar power, since the sun provides as much energy to the earth in one hour as is used in a year. Our lab focuses on the production and storage of clean and renewable energy using solar-powered fuel cells. Although there is already a market in solar energy, it is often criticized for its high price. My project focuses on whether or not certain earth abundant metal complexes are active for oxygen reduction, vital to green energy production within the fuel cell. The summer’s work should result in information designed for an academic paper on the subject, which would share our findings and progress on solar energy with the scientific community.