The US Supreme Court and the Centralization of Federal Authority

My monograph appears in 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 1822 and 2010.

“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. I have contributed a chapter on litigating environmental issues.

Chapter Submission: litigating hardrock mining

Articles in Progress:

“The General Mining Act of 1872: Resettlement and State Formation in the Mountain West” (rough draft complete)

This paper examines how the General Mining Act of 1872, a congressional statute that still governs hardrock mining in the American west, codified local western mining practices, incentivized economic development and population settlement, and produced an early example of the litigation state (Farhang 2010). With this legislation, the federal government helped extend and expand central state authority through land policies that incentivized “population movement” (Frymer 2014).

Draft of the paper: The General Mining Act and State Formation

“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.