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A Supreme Court justice’s stage of life has a tremendous impact on the decisions he or she renders on the bench, according to Maria Fekete ’02, who is pursuing an honors thesis on the topic.

“I am doing a life cycle analysis of Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Lewis F. Powell,” says Fekete, a government and law major from Short Hills, N.J. “I am comparing the differences of life cycles of men and women on the Supreme Court. I will analyze their decisions on the court in relation to gender issues and see the way in which their life cycles affected the decisions they made. All justices evolve over time and I will be analyzing their major transformations outside and inside the court.”

A love of writing is one of the main reasons that Fekete decided to research and write an honors thesis. “With English as my minor, writing has always been one of my strongest attributes,” she explains. “I am really excited to write about a topic that has always been interesting to me.”

This project builds upon Fekete’s previous work and research on gender issues. “I took a Gender and the Law class last spring and absolutely loved it,” she says. “Within that course, I wrote a vast number of briefs and arguments pertaining to women’s rights.” The big difference with this project, she says, is that she chose the topic rather than having it assigned to her.

In her research, Fekete will be reading biographies and other books, researching laws, and reviewing court cases.

“Lafayette is a great academic environment in which to write an honors thesis,” she says. “Since I started my thesis last spring, I have had numerous professors, librarians, and administrators approach me to let me know that they will help me in any way they can as I complete it. Already, I have met with a number of librarians and professors outside the government and law department to discuss my plans with my thesis. Lafayette really encourages as well as motivates a student to reach for higher levels with respect to academics.”

Bruce Allen Murphy, Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights, is Fekete’s thesis advisor. “I am so privileged to be working with him because he has the most extensive background in United States history,” she says.

Murphy taught Fekete’s first course in her major. “I remember him saying to us ‘Just as this is your first class at a new school, it is also mine,'” she recalls. “He completely motivated me to pursue a law major within that class. It means a lot to me to now have him as my honors thesis advisor. We have always worked really well together.”

This past summer, Fekete interned at Goldman Sachs in New York City. She worked in the employee relations department, where her tasks included conducting exit interviews and legal background checks.

Fekete is serving her second year on the Student Conduct and Lafayette Leadership Education Committees. Last school year, she was Student Government vice president and a member of the External Affairs Committee. She sings in Cadence (female a cappella group) and is a sister of Pi Beta Phi sorority. Last spring, she was one of two students given Pi Beta Phi’s Outstanding Scholarship award for highest grade point average.

Categorized in: Academic News