Update: I love the internet! Justin was kind enough to e-mail me with a copy of his more recent article. Justin’s also open to answering questions, so let’s get started.

Who better to exemplify how bad-ass Williams people are than an alumni who is just finishing his first year (I believe) as an Assistant Professor? We turn, then, to Justin Crowe’s work. Professor Crowe’s work is on the role of the Supreme Court in the American political system and its history. It’s a topic Williams has often had a strength in, and it’s quite nice to see a Williams alum return to keep that tradition going!

His most recent article was just published almost exactly one month ago in Studies in American Political Development and is not available for free online (sad!). Fortunately, (yay!), the abstract is available here and earlier work can be downloaded in its entirety here . In light of Stevens’ retirement, the work available in full seems particularly interesting and relevant: the decline of short-term judges in the federal judiciary and an attempt to bring a social science outlook into a field of interest traditionally dominated by law professors. And there are many stories I could tell about law professors sticking their necks into the social sciences without adequate preparation, so it’s extra nice to see Justin’s work do the opposite and (it seems to me) with adequate preparation. Abstracts below the fold:

on judicial tenure:

Against the backdrop of a decade-long wait for a Supreme Court vacancy, legal academics from across the political spectrum have recently proposed or supported significant constitutional or statutory reforms designed to limit the terms of Supreme Court justices and increase the pace of turnover at the Court. Fearing a Court that is increasingly out of touch with the national mood and staffed by justices of advanced age, advocates of term and age limits contend that the trend in Supreme Court tenures is inexorably upward. But are Supreme Court justices really serving longer now than in the past? If so, why? And what might such trends mean for Amer- ican constitutional democracy? In a debate otherwise dominated by law professors—and largely without careful empirical analy- sis—we place the issue of judicial tenure in historical perspective, with special attention to the institutional development of the Court, the changing politics of the appointments process and the types of individuals who emerge from it, and to a lesser extent, broader socio-demographic trends in technology and medicine. In the process, we show how proponents of reforms designed to end life tenure have ignored a significant factor influencing patterns in judicial service: the decline of the “short-term” justice. Trends in judicial tenure, we argue, cannot be explained by more justices serving unusually long terms; rather, they are driven at least in part by the fact that fewer justices are serving relatively short terms. In this article, we consider why justices have retired after only short service throughout much of history, why they rarely do so today, the conditions under which future justices might be compelled to serve shorter terms, and the democratic gains and losses associated with short-term service on the Court. In sum, by following the rise and fall of the short-term justice over the course of American political development, we offer a new perspective, grounded in political science, on an issue currently occupying the attention of lawyers, journalists, and policymakers alike.

On westward expansion and the pro-slavery Supreme Court that came from it:

In this article, I trace the historical lineage and dynamic processes leading to the creation of the Southern slaveholding Supreme Court of antebellum America. Supported by case studies of several Jeffersonian and Jacksonian era legislative battles over judicial reform, I argue that the complex, multistage creation of the Southern slaveholding Court—the Court that decided cases such as Prigg v. Pennsylvania, Dred Scott v. Sandford, and Ableman v. Booth—was the inadvertent result of certain institutional strictures concerning the size of the Court and the geographic organization of the federal circuit system. In so doing, I illustrate how the creation of a fundamentally Jacksonian but also disproportionately Southern and undeniably slaveholding Court was not simply about who was appointed but about the structures that determined who might be appointed, who could be appointed, and who should be appointed. It was these considerations, in turn, that shaped not only the makeup and composition of the Court during this tumultuous period of American political development but also the very character of the momentous decisions it was likely to make.

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