Sawyer Law And Politics Program 

Research Workshops are held in 341 Eggers Hall from 12:00-1:30 unless otherwise noted.

RSVP to is required. 

October 16, 2015
Stephan Stohler, Assistant Professor at SUNY, University at Albany
The Illusion of Judicial Supremacy: Deliberative Regime Theory and the Politics of Inter-Branch Constitutional Interpretation

Judges frequently alter their positions on important legal questions and in ways that run counter to the wishes of the political coalitions which appointed them.  This type of judicial behavior poses a significant challenge for ``regime theory,'' which holds that governing coalitions appoint judges to uphold their political and ideological commitments in the judiciary. In this paper, I elaborate a new theoretical interpretation of regime theory, which explains when judges adhere to innovative legal doctrine. The interpretation, which I term ``deliberative regime theory,'' holds that judges act as partners, elaborating the evolving constitutional and legal positions of dominant political regimes.  On this view, judges will often adopt novel doctrinal positions and await democratic endorsement from the elected branches. To test this argument, I examine legislative, executive, and judicial interpretations of constitutional equality guarantees since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.  These data are broadly consistent with deliberative regime theory and further challenge existing theories of judicial supremacy, which hold that courts enjoy the final say on what the Constitution means. 

September 25, 2015
Emily Zackin, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University
Debtors and State-Driven Constitutional Development

Those studying American constitutional history and development have heeded the call of the Law and Society movement to “decenter” the Supreme Court, and have emphasized that the Court is embedded in larger national governing regimes and ideological projects. However, most accounts of constitutional development have remained firmly centered on the national government. Using the case of emergency relief laws for the protection of debtors, this article argues that we must further decenter our view of American constitutional development to include states. It demonstrates that the landmark case Blaisdell v. Home Building and Loan Association (1934) brought about a change in judicial doctrine, but that the Constitution’s practical meaning had already changed long before this doctrinal shift. Drawing on secondary histories and legal writings from the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, it argues that Blaisdell was merely the Supreme Court’s capitulation to long-established state practices, and that these state-level practices were the driving force behind the development of the Constitution’s meaning.

November 14, 2014
Douglas Reed, Georgetown University
Building the Federal Schoolhouse: Localism and the American Education State

September 21, 2012 
100 Eggers Hall (note room change) 
Rose Corrigan, Associate Professor of Law & Politics at Drexel University,
Rape Reform and the Failure of Success

November 4, 2011
Michael Paris, CUNY-College of Staten Island
The Death (and Life?) of School Desegregation

September 30, 2011
Dan Lipson, SUNY-New Paltz
Fueling the Backlash Against Affirmative Action: The Quiet Influence of Right-Wing Foundations and Patrons