Trends in Executive Branch Power




Professor of Law

Project Summary

This summer, I conducted research with Professor Galbraith in the law school. The project was meant to analyze views letters, or letters sent to Congress from the Department of Justice that express the Executive Branch’s opinion on legislation. Particularly, we examined the separation of powers constitutional objections, and other objections, to see if there was any pattern over time and how the Executive Branch’s assertion of power changed across time and various presidencies. Throughout this project, it was found that these letters, in purpose and content, have changed substantially over time and the assertion of constitutional objections have become more prominent in recent letters as opposed to older ones. This research evolved into a larger project than anticipated and while these are preliminary findings, do give a direction that the final findings are likely to follow.

Beyond learning about the views letters and the changes in their purpose, this project taught me the process of completing social science research. Many students picture research as being completed in a lab by scientists. Entering college, I knew I wanted to participate in research, but did not know how it would work being a political science major. During the summer, I learned that social science research is very diverse and can take many forms. While there is a set plan for the research, the necessity to adapt the plan as findings are made became evident. I also learned the practical skills of memo writing and critical reading analysis. These skills were necessary for my part in the research project and will be easily transferable to future research and/or academic settings.

This research experience helped show me what I want to do post-graduation. Prior to this summer, I had been unsure if I wanted to go straight into the work force, go to graduate school, or go to law school. I hoped that having a PURM position in the law school under the mentorship of a professor would help guide me in the right direction. I now know that I want to pursue law school and potentially focus in constitutional law. Without my PURM experience I do not know if this choice would have been made as quickly or as clear. This path will help guide the rest of my education here at Penn in addition to utilizing tools that I learned this summer to succeed in the necessary classes to make this path my reality.