Associate Professor Meghan Leonard published an article entitled “Gender Diversity, Women’s Leadership, and Consensus in State Supreme Courts” in the Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy. Leonard’s research examines how the increasing number of women justices has changed how these courts operate, specifically during the opinion writing process. When writing opinions, state supreme court justices work together to craft an opinion that explains their decision and speaks for the court.
Larger opinion coalitions can help further legitimize the decision of the court. Her work finds that when a woman is the majority opinion author, they are able to create larger coalitions of their fellow justices than male opinion authors. This conclusion is in line with other research on women’s leadership from across multiple disciplines that demonstrates women often have more cooperative and democratic leadership styles. Additionally, Leonard and her coauthor highlight the importance of gender and racial diversity in the judiciary, noting that diverse representation “in political institutions is an essential component of a representative, democratic system.”