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Biography of authors

James Spriggs

James Spriggs is a faculty member at Washington University in St Louis, where he is the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government (2009-2012), Professor of Political Science, Professor of Law (by courtesy), and Fellow in the Center for Empirical Research in Law.

Spriggs' research interests fall broadly within the area of law and politics and empirical legal studies. Much of his research focuses on explaining the dynamics of appellate court decision making and impact. His research is especially concerned with how institutions (i.e., formal rules or informal norms) shape the choices that judges make. This perspective focuses on how, in attempting to craft law consistent with their policy preferences, judges are constrained by institutional rules endogenous and exogenous to courts. For instance, his book (with Paul Wahlbeck and Forrest Maltzman), Crafting Law on the Supreme Court: The Collegial Game (Cambridge University Press, 2000) examines how internal rules on the Court lead justices to act strategically and bargain, negotiate, and compromise.

In recent years, he has principally focused on a variety of topics aimed at modeling law and legal development. His book (with Thomas G. Hansford), The Politics of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court (Princeton University Press, 2006), provides a comprehensive theory of legal change and couples it with empirical analyses spanning more than 50 years. The theoretical model in the book argues that two variables principally drive legal change: (1) the justices' policy goals; and (2) an element of the norm of precedent that he terms "legal vitality," which he conceptualizes as the legal authoritativeness of a precedent. Importantly, the model and empirical results demonstrate that the justices' ideological goals and the norm of precedent are not mutually exclusive considerations, as is often suggested in the literature. Rather, each of these factors is important as the justices attempt to set policy that reflects their preferences and encourages the downstream societal effects they desire. His book also speaks to a central debate in the judicial politics literature by showing that precedent can constrain the choices the justices make. He specifically demonstrates that the justices respond to the need to legitimize their policy choices by following more legally authoritative cases. This effect is most apparent when considering that the justices are more likely to positively interpret a precedent they ideologically disfavor if that precedent is particularly legally vital.

His articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Law and Society Review, American Politics Quarterly, Perspectives on Politics, Political Analysis, Georgetown Law Journal, Emory Law Journal, Washington University in St. Louis Law Review, The Houston Law Review, The Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, and the Illinois Law Review.

He is also the recipient of two National Science Foundation Grants. His most recent NSF grant funds a project that examines the development of the norm of stare decisis in the United States.

Paul Wahlbeck

Paul Wahlbeck, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, studies Supreme Court decision making.

He is interested in strategic behavior of the justices as documented in their personal papers. He has examined the chief justice's assignment of majority opinions, finding that his choice is guided by policy concerns, but is constrained by the organizational needs of the Court. This work (with Forrest Maltzman) has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Judicature, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. He has also studied strategic voting from fluidity in vote choice between the preliminary conference vote to the final vote on the merits and the decision to pass at conference. Articles exploring those topics have been published in the American Political Science Review (with Forrest Maltzman) and Law & Society Review (with Tim Johnson and Jim Spriggs). He also has explored the deliberative process when there is substantial give and take among the justices as opinions are drafted and justices seek accommodation from the author. This research has appeared in print in a Cambridge University Press book and articles in outlets like the Journal of Politics (with Forrest Maltzman and Jim Spriggs). Finally, Wahlbeck has explored the centrality of information on the Supreme Court decision making in studies on the role of amici curiae (with Jim Spriggs in Political Research Quarterly) and the quality of attorney arguments before the Supreme Court (with Tim Johnson and Jim Spriggs in the American Political Science Review).

Currently, Wahlbeck is using citations of Supreme Court decisions to explore judicial policy making. Using citation data and network analysis, he has examined with James Fowler, Jim Spriggs, Tim Johnson, and Sangick Jeon patterns within and across cases to create importance scores that identify the most legally relevant precedents. In a project with Frank Cross, Jim Spriggs, and Tim Johnson, he investigated the role of citations in opinions and how they can be used to test stare decisis and the Court's projection of power and legitimation of its authority. Finally, with Tim Johnson and Jim Spriggs, he is exploring the development of the norm of stare decisis using citation data.

Forrest Maltzman

Forrest Maltzman is Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. The institutions of American national government serve as the focus of Professor Maltzman's teaching and research, and he is especially interested in the factors that shape decision-making within Congress and the Supreme Court. His current research centers on enriching our understanding of how and when legal doctrines guide judicial decision-making.

He has contributed articles to the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Judicature, and is the author of Competing Principals: Committees, Parties, and the Organization of Congress (Michigan 1997). He is also the coauthor along with Jim Spriggs and Paul Wahlbeck of Crafting Law on the Supreme Court: The Collegial Game (Cambridge 2000) and along with Sarah Binder of Advice and Dissent: The Struggle to Shape the Federal Judiciary (Brookings, 2009). His most recent book, The Constrained Court: Law, Politics, and the Decisions Justices Make (Princeton, 2011), with Michael A. Bailey, examines how law constrains U.S. Supreme Court Justices.