Max Stearns

Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law




(410) 706-3942


(410) 706-2184

Photo of Max Stearns


  • BA, 1983, University of Pennsylvania
  • JD, 1987, University of Virginia

Max Stearns, Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, is an interdisciplinary scholar. He applies the methodologies of economics, broadly defined, to study private and public law, along with institutional decision-making processes. His work combines such tools as neoclassical economics, interest group theory, social choice, and game theory, among others, to study legal doctrines and lawmaking systems. Much of his work centers on structural aspects of constitutional decision making in the Supreme Court, along with such specific doctrines as standing, the commerce clause, and equal protection.

Professor Stearns’s forthcoming book, Parliamentary America: The Least Radical Mean of Radically Repairing Our Broken Democracy, forthcoming JHU Press in 2024, tackles among the most pressing issues of our time. Our democracy is in crisis. Scholars and media commentators recognize it and offer a variety of prescriptions for reform. Professor Stearns explains why nearly all widely discussed proposals will not resolve the crisis, cannot be adopted, or both. Professor Stearns explains the need for radical reform affecting our electoral system and system of executive accountability, and he offers specific proposals to bring such changes to fruition. Parliamentary America is firmly grounded in history and theory and is interspersed with familiar cultural references and childhood games. While written for a general audience, citizens concerned about the future of our democracy, the book offers rich insights to experts, as well as students, of constitutional reform. His last book, Law and Economics: Private and Public (West Academic 2018) (with Todd Zywicki and Tom Miceli), comprehensively applies a broad range of economic methodologies to subject matters across the law school curriculum. The book surveys first-year courses along with many upper-level subjects, and it embraces both private and public legal domains. Professor Stearns is also author of Constitutional Process: A Social Choice Analysis of Supreme Court Decision Making (University of Michigan Press, paperback edition 2002), which provides a systematic analysis of how collective decision-making processes shape doctrines and case outcomes in the Supreme Court.

Professor Stearns’s scholarly articles appear in leading academic journals: Yale Law Journal, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, California Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, Notre Dame Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, and The University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. During the COVID pandemic, Professor Stearns created, and he continues to run, the Virtual Constitutional Law & Economics Workshop, bringing together leading interdisciplinary scholars throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He also blogs at on law, politics, and culture.

Professor Stearns has run the Maryland Carey Law Virtual Constitutional Law and Economics Workshop, which brings in scholars from leading institutions across the U.S. and around the world, since 2017. Scholars interested in being part of this series are welcome to join.

Professor Stearns joined the faculty at Maryland Carey Law in fall 2006. Professor Stearns previously had been professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law since 1992. Professor Stearns practiced law as a litigation associate with Palmer & Dodge in Boston and with Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz in Philadelphia. Professor Stearns earned his BA, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania and his JD from the University of Virginia, where he was a member of the Virginia Law Review and the Order of the Coif. He clerked for the Honorable Harrison L. Winter, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Professor Stearns has taught courses in law and economics, public choice, and constitutional law at the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland; the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia; and Canterbury University Department of Economics and Finance, Christchurch, New Zealand (as visiting Erskine Fellow). He has been a visiting professor at the University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law, and at the University of Michigan Law School.

Professor Stearns served as associate dean for research and faculty development from 2013 to 2017. Professor Stearns teaches Constitutional Law I and II (Governance and Individual Rights) and Law and Economics.


Parliamentary America: The Least Radical Means of Radically Repairing Our Broken Democracy (forthcoming 2024).

Law and Economics: Private and Public (2018) (with Todd J. Zywicki and Thomas Miceli). Read Full Text.

Teacher's Manual to Law and Economics: Private and Public (2018) (with Todd Zywicki & Tom Miceli).

Public Choice Concepts and Applications in Law (2009) (with Todd J. Zywicki). Read Full Text.

Constitutional Process: A Social Choice Analysis of Supreme Court Decision Making (2000) (paperback ed. with new afterword, 2002). Read Full Text.

Public Choice and Public Law: Readings and Commentary (1997).

Book Chapters

A Public Choice Perspective, in Methodologies of Law and Economics 44 (Thomas S. Ulen ed., 2017).

A Social Choice View of Law and Economics, in Methodologies of Law and Economics 72 (Thomas S. Ulen ed., 2017) (with Megan McGinnis).

The Economics of Constitutional Law, in The Oxford Handbook of the U.S. Constitution 991 (Mark Tushnet et al. eds., 2015).

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). Read Full Text.

An Introduction to Social Choice, in Elgar Handbook on Public Choice 88 (Daniel A. Farber & Ann Joseph O'Connell eds., 2010). Read 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). Read Full Text.


Modeling Narrowest Grounds, 89 George Washington Law Review 461 (2021). Read Full Text.

Constitutional Law's Conflicting Premises, 96 Notre Dame Law Review 447 (2020). Read Full Text.

Reflections on the Aftermath of Election 2016, 77 Maryland Law Review 271 (2017). Read Full Text.

Obergefell, Fisher, and the Inversion of Tiers, 19 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 1043 (2017). Read Full Text.

Election 2016 and the Structural Constitution: A Preliminary Framing, 76 Maryland Law Review Endnotes 4 (2016). Read Full Text.

Spokeo v. Robins and the Constitutional Foundations of Statutory Standing, 68 Vanderbilt Law Review en banc 221 (2015). Read Full Text.

Constitutional Law in Social Choice Perspective, 163 Public Choice 167 (2015). Read Full Text.

Grains of Sand or Butterfly Effect: Standing, the Legitimacy of Precedent, and Reflections on Hollingsworth and Windsor, 65 Alabama Law Review 349 (2013). Read Full Text.

Commerce Games and the Individual Mandate, 100 Georgetown Law Journal 1117 (2012) (with Leslie Meltzer Henry). Read Full Text.

Direct (Anti-)Democracy, 80 George Washington Law Review 311 (2012). Read Full Text.

Standing at the Crossroads: The Roberts Court in Historical Perspective, 83 Notre Dame Law Review 875 (2008). Read Full Text.

The New Commerce Clause Doctrine in Game Theoretical Perspective, 60 Vanderbilt Law Review 1 (2007). Read Full Text.

Defining Dicta, 57 Stanford Law Review 953 (2005) (with Michael Abramowicz). Read Full Text.

A Beautiful Mend: A Game Theoretical Analysis of the Dormant Commerce Clause Doctrine, 45 William & Mary Law Review 1 (2003). Read Full Text.

Book Review, Appellate Courts Inside Out, 101 Michigan Law Review 1764 (2003) (reviewing Jonathan Matthew Cohen, Inside Appellate Courts (2002)). Read Full Text.

The Condorcet Jury Theorem and Judicial Decision Making: A Reply to Saul Levmore, 3 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 125 (2002). Read Full Text.

Beyond Counting Votes: The Political Economy of Bush v. Gore, 54 Vanderbilt Law Review 1849 (2001) (with Michael Abramowicz). Read Full Text.

From Lujan to Laidlaw: A Preliminary Model of Environmental Standing, 11 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 321 (2001). Read Full Text.

The Case for Including Marks v. United States within the Canon of Constitutional Law, 17 Constitutional Commentary 321 (2001). Read Full Text.

Why Should Lawyers Care About Institutional Data on Courts?, 83 Judicature 236 (2000). Read Full Text.

Should Justices Ever Switch Votes?: Miller v. Albright in Social Choice Perspective, 7 Supreme Court Economic Review 87 (1999). Read Full Text.

The Remand that Made the Court Expand, 16 Constitutional Commentary 581 (1999). Read Full Text.

Restoring Positive Law and Economics: Introduction to Public Choice Theme Issue, 6 George Mason Law Review 709 (1998). Read Full Text.

Mistretta versus Marbury: The Foundations of Judicial Review, 74 Texas Law Review 1281 (1996). Read Full Text.

How Outcome Voting Promotes Principled Issue Identification: A Reply to Professor John Rogers and Others, 49 Vanderbilt Law Review 1045 (1996). Read Full Text.

Standing Back from the Forest: Justiciability and Social Choice, 83 California Law Review 1309 (1995). Read Full Text.

Poetic Law: A Statement on Intent, 48 Vanderbilt Law Review 195 (1995). Read Full Text.

Standing and Social Choice: Historical Evidence, 144 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 309 (1995). Read Full Text.

The Misguided Renaissance of Social Choice, 103 Yale Law Journal 1219 (1994). Read Full Text.

The Public Choice Case Against the Item Veto, 49 Washington & Lee Law Review 385 (1992). Read Full Text.