Millions of Americans will encounter the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. In fact, studies suggest that as many as one in three Americans have a criminal record of some kind.
For the accused, possible outcomes can include financial penalties, the loss of certain freedoms, imprisonment, and in select cases, even death.
Ethan Boldt, a doctoral candidate studying political science, focuses his research on the intersection between American politics and the criminal justice system.
A Presidential Graduate Fellow, Boldt chose to complete his doctoral studies at UGA because of the many opportunities in scholarship, teaching and personal growth offered at the university.
“I was drawn to the University of Georgia, and especially the Department of Political Science, because of the school’s reputation as a leader in higher education and the many distinguished faculty working on research surrounding the courts. I feel confident I made the right choice.”
With the guidance of his advisor and co-advisor, Dr. Christina Boyd and Dr. Susan Haire, respectively, Boldt evaluates that impact that the law – and the officials in charge of enforcing it – have on Americans.
He specifically examines the role that prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges have in federal criminal cases.
“My main research question is, ‘After accounting for the legal nature of each case, what influence do the choices and characteristics of court professionals have on how the case is handled,’” Boldt explains.
His research is focused on understanding the way the government adjudicates crimes, which he views as having theoretical and practical significance.
“I think criminal enforcement is an essential but frequently overlooked function of our political process,” Boldt says. “A crime is a breach of the most important obligations we owe to each other as citizens.
“Meanwhile, prosecuting someone as a criminal is one of the most detrimental actions the government can take against citizens and our constitution promises that the state will exercise that power fairly.”
“Thus, what society defines as crimes and how we treat the people who commit them reflects upon our democratic ideals.”
Since most existing data sources omit information related to key players in a court case (i.e. the prosecutors, defense attorney and judges), Boldt is compiling his own dataset using federal court documents.
“My hope is that this research will shed light on how the criminal trial process works and whether the government is living up to its guarantee of equality under the law,” he says.
Boldt is also pursuing a broad research agenda outside of his dissertation, including works on the impact of search and seizure rules, state court administration, the power of prosecutors, and the U.S. District Courts.
After graduation, he plans to continue his research and teach as a faculty member in higher education.