Works in Progress

Below you will find the title, abstract, and (where available) linked drafts for the projects I’m currently working on. Feel free to contact me with any questions about the status of these papers or inquiries about citation.

  • “With Dignity and Justice for All: The Jurisprudence of Equal Dignity and the Partial Convergence of Liberty and Equality in American Constitutional Law” (forthcoming, International Journal of Constitutional Law): In its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, finding a constitutional right for same-sex couples to be married and have their marriages recognized, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution granted the plaintiffs what they sought: “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” For a concept found nowhere in the text of the Constitution, dignity has received considerable attention of late in American constitutional jurisprudence. Especially relevant to the Obergefell decision, dignity played an important role in two key precedents, Lawrence v. Texas and United States v. Windsor. This Essay documents the development of the jurisprudence of “equal dignity” and seeks to ascertain its role and significance in the Court’s fundamental rights jurisprudence. I argue that Obergefell signals a partial convergence of liberty and equality in American constitutional law. This convergence is both cause and effect of the increased salience of dignity and its emergence as a constitutional touchstone. In the jurisprudence of equal dignity, dignity does the work of tradition without the requirement of time. However, it cannot be said that Obergefell announced a new “doctrine of equal dignity.” Human dignity in its liberty- and equality-regarding aspects became a sign and marker of practices that (might) warrant constitutional protection, even as it is the anterior value on which constitutional liberty and equality are grounded.
  • “The Promises and Pathologies of Presidential Federalism” (forthcoming, Presidential Studies Quarterly): State and local politics have dominated the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. Despite promises to reinvigorate states’ rights both before and after his campaign, Trump has used the administrative powers of the modern presidency to pursue his policy agenda at the subnational level. From waiving certain provisions of federal programs, to filing lawsuits against states and localities, Trump has taken advantage of the opportunities crafted by his predecessors to use subnational politics  for the presidency’s own ends. We place these nascent developments  in historical and theoretical context to suggest that “presidential-federalism” at once signifies the continued strength and relevance of subnational governance, while providing occasions for further administrative aggrandizement. Trump, despite remaining highly unconventional in a number of ways, might further reinforce the presidency’s centrality to modern American federalism.
  • Federalist 39 as a (Messy) Model of Constitutional Development”: Of all Publius’s essays, Federalist No. 39 is often taken to present the clearest expression of the kind of Constitution proposed for ratification: one that is “neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both.” In this essay, Madison outlines several dimensions of the proposed regime, identifying elements that are federal in character and others that are national in character. For many students of American constitutionalism, No. 39 has been understood as outlining a complex form of government, one that balances elements that incorporate both state and national power. As a result, this essay has been used as a standard against which constitutional governance can be evaluated. This understanding, though, assumes that the regime Madison described is static—that it does not develop in ways that affect or prioritize the defining elements Madison addresses. This essay complicates that interpretation by connecting the account of the constitutional regime Madison provides to the operational logics of the Constitution, some of which are developed elsewhere in The Federalist. Thus understood, the Constitution establishes a compound republic that anticipates constitutional development, and Madison’s account identifies potential avenues along which this development may proceed.
  • “The Structural Articulation of ‘Equal Dignity'”: The constitutional right to same-sex marriage, established by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), is rooted in a jurisprudence of “equal dignity” developed in the Court’s earlier decisions in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) and United States v. Windsor (2013). Though dignity is a central value in all three of these cases, I argue that in each case the Court advanced a discrete conception of dignity: dignity as autonomy (Lawrence), variable dignity (Windsor), and democratic dignity (Obergefell). I proceed to demonstrate how the pivotal move in this jurisprudential trajectory—the development of Windsor‘s conception of variable dignity—was decisively shaped by the structure of the American regime. The jurisprudence of “equal dignity” and the conceptions of human dignity on which it rests, I argue, were articulated both conceptually and structurally.