Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

John Kilwein

Committee Co-Chair

Robert D Duval

Committee Member

Shauna Fisher

Committee Member

Phillip Michelbach

Committee Member

James Nolan


This dissertation investigated factors that influence the decision-making process of police officers, prosecutors, public attorneys and judges when dealing with cases of domestic violence. The study specifically looked at the types of information the police and the judiciary considered relevant to ask victims when they filed complaints at police stations and at court hearings, respectively. Based on the literature on judicial politics and policing, this research focused on how individuals act as agents, helping or hindering the implementation of the policy. It highlighted the various factors that influence these agents, particularly in the context of small communities such as courts and police stations. Making use of organizational theory, the study was conducted in the state of Espirito Santo, Brazil, which has the highest rate of domestic violence in the country. The description was based on non-obtrusive observations of work routine in police stations and specialized courts and semi-structured qualitative interviews undertaken with police officers, prosecutors, district and defense attorneys, judges, and advocates. The interviews assessed opinions on the law, issues faced by actors, and their suggestions for better implementation. Interactions between police, the judiciary, and victims were assessed by observations. Findings suggest that actors are heavily influenced by an array of factors other than the law, especially their own attitudes toward victims and the accused. Interviewees reported a high level of frustration and reluctance, often asserting that domestic violence cases are relationship problems that should first be addressed to counselors or mediators, not the legal system. This study contributes to the Political Science literature in judicial politics, particularly literature on Law & Society dealing with the impact of legal decisions in society.