Associate Dean for Research
and Faculty Development
Professor of Law and Marbury Research Professor
BA, 1983, University of Pennsylvania
JD, 1987, University of Virginia
Maxwell Stearns is an interdisciplinary scholar who applies novel methodologies to study a wide range of doctrines in public law, with a particular emphasis on judicial decision-making processes and structural constitutional law. His specific methodological expertise centers on public choice, social choice, game theory, and law and economics. Professor Stearns teaches Constitutional Law (Structure and Individual Rights), Public Choice, and Law and Economics, and he has also taught Federal Courts, Federal Civil Rights, and a special topics seminar in Evolutionary Biology and the Law.
Professor Stearns has recently published Public Choice Concepts and Applications in Law (West 2009) (with Todd Zywicki). Public choice is the application of economic analysis to the subject matter of political science. This is the only book specifically designed to instruct law students and students in related disciplines in the methodological tools of public choice, including interest group theory, social choice theory, and elementary game theory, along with basic price theory, and to apply these tools to wide-ranging topics in both public and private law and to various lawmaking institutions. The book has an accompanying webpage designed to support the bound volume and to offer additional topical materials.
Professor Stearnsís articles have appeared in several leading academic journals, including the Yale Law Journal, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the California Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the Vanderbilt Law Review. For access to several of Stearnsís leading works, please follow the Selected Works link to the right. Professor Stearns is author of Constitutional Process: A Social Choice Analysis of Supreme Court Decision Making (University of Michigan Press, paperback edition 2002), the first book-length analysis of how collective decision-making processes shape doctrines and case outcomes in the United States Supreme Court.
Professor Stearns served as Distinguished Visiting Professor during the 2005-06 academic year, before joining the faculty as a permanent member in the Fall 2006. Since joining the faculty, Professor Stearns has twice been appointed as Marbury Research Professor, a rotating three-year research professorship. Before joining this faculty, Professor Stearns was a faculty member at the George Mason University School of Law since 1992. Before teaching, Professor Stearns practiced law as a litigation associate with Palmer & Dodge in Boston and with Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz in Philadelphia. Professor Stearns earned his B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania and his J.D. from the University of Virginia, where he was a member of the Virginia Law Review and the Order of the Coif. He then clerked for the Honorable Harrison L. Winter, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Professor Stearns has taught condensed courses in public choice and constitutional law at the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University, and at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. He also has been a visiting professor at the University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law, and the University of Michigan Law School.
Public Choice Concepts and Applications in Law (2009) (with Todd J. Zywicki). [Abstract]
Constitutional Process: A Social Choice Analysis of Supreme Court Decision Making (2000) (paperback ed. with new afterword, 2002). [Abstract]
Public Choice and Public Law: Readings and Commentary (1997).
Private-Rights Litigation and the Normative Foundations of Durable Constitutional Precedent, in Precedent in the United States Supreme Court 77 (Christopher J. Peters ed., 2013). [Full Text]
An Introduction to Social Choice, in Elgar Handbook on Public Choice 88 (Daniel A. Farber & Ann Joseph OíConnell eds., 2010). [Full Text]
A Private-Rights Standing Model to Promote Public-Regarding Behavior by Government-Owned Corporations, in From Bureaucracy to Business Enterprise: Legal and Policy Issues in the Transformation of Government Services (Michael J. Whincop ed., 2002). [Full Text]
Spokeo v. Robins and the Constitutional Foundations of Statutory Standing, 68 Vanderbilt Law Review en banc 221 (2015). [Full Text]
Constitutional Law in Social Choice Perspective, 163 Public Choice 167 (2015). [Abstract]
Grains of Sand or Butterfly Effect: Standing, the Legitimacy of Precedent, and Reflections on Hollingsworth and Windsor, 65 Alabama Law Review 349 (2013). [Full Text]
Commerce Games and the Individual Mandate, 100 Georgetown Law Journal 1117 (2012) (with Leslie Meltzer Henry). [Full Text]
Direct (Anti-)Democracy, 80 George Washington Law Review 311 (2012). [Full Text]
Standing at the Crossroads: The Roberts Court in Historical Perspective, 83 Notre Dame Law Review 875 (2008). [Full Text]
The New Commerce Clause Doctrine in Game Theoretical Perspective, 60 Vanderbilt Law Review 1 (2007). [Full Text]
Defining Dicta, 57 Stanford Law Review 953 (2005) (with Michael Abramowicz). [Full Text]
A Beautiful Mend: A Game Theoretical Analysis of the Dormant Commerce Clause Doctrine, 45 William & Mary Law Review 1 (2003). [Full Text]
Book Review,Appellate Courts Inside Out, 101 Michigan Law Review 1764 (2003) (reviewing Jonathan Matthew Cohen, Inside Appellate Courts (2002)). [Full Text]
The Condorcet Jury Theorem and Judicial Decision Making: A Reply to Saul Levmore, 3 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 125 (2002). [Full Text]
Beyond Counting Votes: The Political Economy of Bush v. Gore, 54 Vanderbilt Law Review 1850 (2001) (with Michael Abramowicz). [Full Text]
From Lujan to Laidlaw: A Preliminary Model of Environmental Standing, 11 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 321 (2001). [Full Text]
The Case for Including Marks v. United States within the Canon of Constitutional Law, 17 Constitutional Commentary 321 (2001). [Full Text]
Why Should Lawyers Care About Institutional Data on Courts?, 83 Judicature 236 (2000). [Full Text]
Should Justices Ever Switch Votes?: Miller v. Albright in Social Choice Perspective, 7 Supreme Court Economic Review 87 (1999). [Full Text]
The Remand that Made the Court Expand, 16 Constitutional Commentary 581 (1999). [Full Text]
Restoring Positive Law and Economics: Introduction to Public Choice Theme Issue, 6 George Mason Law Review 709 (1998). [Full Text]
Mistretta versus Marbury: The Foundations of Judicial Review, 74 Texas Law Review 1281 (1996). [Full Text]
How Outcome Voting Promotes Principled Issue Identification: A Reply to Professor John Rogers and Others, 49 Vanderbilt Law Review 1045 (1996). [Full Text]
Standing Back from the Forest: Justiciability and Social Choice, 83 California Law Review 1309 (1995). [Full Text]
Poetic Law: A Statement on Intent, 48 Vanderbilt Law Review 195 (1995). [Full Text]
Standing and Social Choice: Historical Evidence, 144 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 309 (1995). [Full Text]
The Misguided Renaissance of Social Choice, 103 Yale Law Journal 1219 (1994). [Full Text]
The Public Choice Case Against the Item Veto, 49 Washington & Lee Law Review 385 (1992). [Full Text]