Robert M. Howard

Georgia State University
Political Science

38 Peachtree Center Avenue
Department of Political Science
Atlanta, GA

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My research involves the intersection of courts, law and public policy. I am particularly interested in the empirical examination of why and how citizens use law and the courts to change policy, and then the subsequent influence of the courts on the policy issue. My research agenda is driven by questions of why have non-accountable institutions in a democratic system, and what is their role? Courts and bureaucracies are often attacked as unresponsive and undemocratic. My work, through an examination of court influence on policy, bureaucratic responsiveness, non-electoral selection processes, and judicial decision-making, seeks to demonstrate that they are in fact, responsive and crucial to democratic government.

Howard, Robert M., and Cole Taratoot. “Accountability and Independence: Administrative Law Judges and NLRB Rulings” American Politics Research 39: 832-858.
Abstract: There has been significant scholarly research on judicial decision making and bureaucratic control but little research on bureaucrats who perform a judicial function, namely, administrative law judges. In this article, we analyze the influences on the decisions of administrative law judges (ALJs) from 1991 to 2006. Using ordered logit, we examine the influence of policy preference and hierarchical and political constraint. We find that ALJs are comparable to Federal District Court judges in that they use ideology in their rulings, are also subject to hierarchical control by higher courts, and that they are constrained by separation of powers influences.
Howard, Robert M., and Amy Steigerwalt. 2011 Judging Judges: Courts, Law and Policymaking in the American Political System. Routledge: New York, NY.
Abstract: To what extent do courts make social and public policy and influence policy change? This innovative text analyzes this question generally and in seven distinct policy areas that play out in both federal and state courts?tax policy, environmental policy, reproductive rights, sex equality, affirmative action, school finance, and same-sex marriage. The authors address these issues through the twin lenses of how state and federal courts must and do interact with the other branches of government and whether judicial policy-making is a form of activist judging.rnrnEach chapter uncovers the policymaking aspects of judicial process by investigating the current state of the law, the extent of court involvement in policy change, the responses of other governmental entities and outside actors, and the factors which influenced the degree of implementation and impact of the relevant court decisions. Throughout the book, Howard and Steigerwalt examine and analyze the literature on judicial policy-making as well as evaluate existing measures of judicial ideology, judicial activism, court and legal policy formation, policy change and policy impact. This unique text offers new insights and areas to research in this important field of American politics.

Substantive Focus:
Law and Policy PRIMARY
Economic Policy
Education Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation PRIMARY