Research

Book Manuscript

Currently I’m finishing a book manuscript entitled The U.S. Supreme Court and the Development of the American State, which is under contract with SUNY Press’s “American Constitutionalism” series. This book unearths the constitutional arguments used to expand the federal government. Political characterizations of the national state as “strong” or “weak” (or as “big” or “small”) miss the nuanced ways the national state and constitutional law have evolved over time. Both scholarly and public communities have misunderstood the strength and growth of federal government in the typical periods that comprise American political history. After this systematic and empirical analysis of constitutional decisions, it becomes clear that no matter the justice’s ideology or the historical era, the Court has persistently expanded and centralized federal authority across each constitutional issue area.

Thus, my book uncovers when and where the federal state’s authority grew in size and scope thereby revising our understanding of American state-building. I explore this theme with an original database of constitutional decisions gathered from fifty-eighty constitutional casebooks and treatises published between 1817 and 2010.

Here is a proposal and outline of the project.

Articles in Progress:

“Problems of Litigating Hardrock Mining”

Various professors at Fort Lewis College are putting together an interdisciplinary, edited volume, analyzing the August 2015 EPA-caused Animas River spill, a river that runs through Durango, Colorado where Fort Lewis is located. We will examine the spill from multiple disciplinary angles–political science, geosciences, psychology, and chemistry, to name a few areas. This volume will be published by University of Colorado Press.

Chapter Submission: Animas River Chapter

“The Supreme Court and the Rise of the Modern American State, 1870-1920” (rough draft complete)

American Political Development typically understands the U.S. Supreme Court as an inhibitor to the expansion of the modern central state. Using an original data of the Court’s constitutional decisions, this paper challenges the idea that it persistently inhibited expansion. These data highlight patterns of political development crucial to understanding the role constitutional interpretation plays in the changing nature of the American state.  

The Warren Court’s Uneven Distribution of Citizenship Rights” (research in progress)

This paper examines the selective expansion of citizenship rights under Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Court. In a series of consequential decisions, the Warren Court extended citizenship rights to some people—criminally accused and African-Americans, namely—but not to those in newly acquired territories or to Native Americans. In the area of immigration regulation, territorial governance, and federal Indian policy, the Warren Court accepted the plenary power cases of the late nineteenth century. While various Justices expressed doubts about this disposition, the Warren Court never overturned any plenary power cases.

Why did the Court extend citizenship rights to some residents of the United States but not to others? Part of the reason is the Warren Court’s reverence for U.S. citizenship, which undermined the 14th Amendment’s dedication to the protection of the rights of persons not just citizens. But to fully address this question, this article historically situates the Court’s deference to Congress in citizenship cases. Because the Warren Court—like Courts before it—understand these types of cases as issues of foreign policy, the Court deferred to Congress, leaving many persons with little protection against the American state.

“Majority to Minority: The Evolving Nature of the Bill of Rights” (preliminary research in progress).

Explores how the Bill of Rights shifted from an idea to protect the majority from a narrow elitist governmental minority to the present conception of these rights as a charter for the individual, protecting the minority from the majority.