I am the John Paul Stevens Professor of Law, Professor (by courtesy) of Political Science, and Philosophy Department Affiliated Faculty at Northwestern University. I received the Walder Award for Research Excellence from Northwestern, the Hart-Dworkin award in legal philosophy from the Association of American Law Schools, and the Edward S. Corwin Prize from the American Political Science Association. My scholarship focuses on issues at the intersection of law and political philosophy. I have written more than 100 scholarly articles and seven books, most recently Burning Down the House, St. Martin’s Press, 2022.
I grew up in Rockland County, New York, and I’ve taught at Northwestern Law for more than twenty years.
My writing focuses on some of the bitterest contemporary culture wars issues: gay rights, religious liberty, pornography, racism. Americans are polarized because they think their ideals are irreconcilably opposed. Are they right? The only way to know is to carefully examine the ideals and explore the tensions between them.
I am decidedly on the political left. In a piece I published as a law student I argued that discrimination against gay people was a kind of illegal sex discrimination. At the time, almost no one thought that. After 33 years, the argument was adopted by the Supreme Court, in Bostock v. Clayton County.
But I work hard to understand the views of the right, such as Burkean conservatism, Ayn Rand’s libertarianism, the idea that obscenity causes moral harm, and the arguments against same-sex marriage. A Right to Discriminate? How the Case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale Warped the Law of Free Association engages the arguments that were used to justify the Boy Scouts’ exclusion of gay people. The Tough Luck Constitution and the Assault on Health Care Reform reveals the origins of the Obamacare litigation in libertarian political philosophy. Gay Rights vs. Religious Liberty? The Unnecessary Conflict shows a way out of that fraught issue.
Political philosophy sounds abstract, but it is inescapable. If you have any political opinions, then you have a philosophy and are acting in accordance with it. Law is political philosophy made concrete. It embodies a vision of a good society. I examine the visions that underlie specific areas of the law, so that we can determine whether we are pursuing the right aspirations.