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Research Projects

Civil justice

Expressive Law

Authors: Janice Nadler, Richard McAdams
This project seeks to understand empirically the effects that law has apart from sanctions that it imposes. It tests experimentally the theory that law influences behavior in coordination games with…

The Future of Latinos in the United States: Law, Opportunity, and Mobility

Authors: Robert L. Nelson, Rachel F. Moran
To learn more about the "The Future of Latinos in the United States: Law, Opportunity, and Mobility," please visit the official website (futureoflatinos.org): The ABF research project, "The Future…

Employment Civil Rights

Authors: Robert L. Nelson, Laura Beth Nielsen, Ronit Dinovitzer
The Employment Civil Rights Project is generating findings on the changing dynamics of employment discrimination litigation, the types of cases that succeed in litigation, and the parties'…

New Legal Realism

Author: Elizabeth Mertz
The New Legal Realism (NLR) Project's goal is to develop rigorous, genuinely interdisciplinary approaches to the empirical study of law. Initially sponsored by the American Bar Foundation and the…

Mixed-Income Project 

Author: Robert J. Sampson
Mixed-income housing is a major policy paradigm in the U.S., but research evaluating its sources and consequences is relatively sparse. The evidence that does exist has produced conflicting results,…

Access to Justice

Author: Rebecca Sandefur
From the founding of the American Bar Foundation, ABF scholars have been deeply engaged with fundamental questions of access to justice. Faculty Fellow Rebecca L. Sandefur's research on access to…

Public Opinion and the Civil Justice System

Author: Stephen Daniels
What do people think of the civil justice system? This project seeks to answer that question against the backdrop of the politics of tort reform and the changes in the law that have resulted from the…

Organizational Capacity and Neighborhood Political Participation

Author: Traci Burch
This project explores the ways in which the structural features of neighborhoods (such as formal political, social, and religious organizations and other amenities) as well as demographic features of…

Building on the Arizona Filming Project

Authors: Shari Seidman Diamond, Mary R. Rose , Beth Murphy
This project was made possible by a unique opportunity to record real jury deliberations. The book currently under completion uses the deliberations of 50 civil trials to answer a variety of…
The Heckman Equation
Author: James J. Heckman
Research. Data. Lectures. Advocacy. The resources on The Heckman Equation promote the value of investing in early childhood development. Click here to visit the site. See also: The Heckman…
It's Deja Vu All Over Again: Plaintiff's Lawyers and the Evolution of Tort Law and Practice in Texas
Authors: Stephen Daniels, Joanne Martin
This project is examining the effects of tort reform on plaintiffs’ lawyers’ practices in Texas. Recognizing that these lawyers are the gatekeepers of the civil justice system and that…
Optimizing the Jury Instruction Process
Authors: Shari Seidman Diamond, Elizabeth L. Murphy
This project studies approaches courts can use in revising jury instructions.
The Legal Complex and Struggles for Political Liberalism
Author: Terence Halliday
Understanding the foundations of political liberalism has become one of most critical issues of the past fifteen years. Countries that are not democracies or that are in transition face global…
Conceptualizing, Contextualizing, and Testing the Effects of the Rule of Law
Authors: Robert L. Nelson, Tom Ginsburg
Using a mix of methodologies, this project seeks to identify the conditional mechanisms under which the rule of law produces its desired results. First, the project exploits its unique access to the…
Public Interest Law Firms
Authors: Laura Beth Nielsen, Catherine R. Albiston
Using a multi-method research design, this project investigates how lawyers in public interest law organizations (PILOs) conceptualize and pursue their goals. At the organizational level of analysis,…
The Social Psychological Role of Subjective Harm in Punishment
Author: Mary R. Rose
This research investigates the factors that play a psychological role in laypersons’ decisions about justice and responsibility. In criminal cases jurors sometimes hear, by way of victim impact…
Condemn-Nation: The Social Psychological Foundations of the Kelo Backlash
Authors: Shari Seidman Diamond, Janice Nadler
This project seeks to understand and explain the extreme public reaction to the Kelo case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that governments are permitted to force the sale of private property…

Criminal justice

The Probative Versus Prejudicial Effect of Gruesome Photographs in Court

Authors: Janice Nadler, Jessica Salerno, Arizona State University , Susan Bandes, DePaul Law School
Lawyers, judges, and juries are faced with a barrage of evidence and argument displayed in visual form - sometimes gruesome in nature. Advances in hand-held video technology have made it commonplace…

Punishment Regimes and the Multi-Level Effects of Parental Imprisonment: Inter-Institutional, Inter-Generational and Inter-Sectional Models of Inequality and Exclusion 

Authors: John Hagan, Holly Foster
This study is designed to better understand the difference that parental incarceration makes in the life of an adolescent. American incarceration is four times larger than in the 1970s, six to ten…

Criminal Defense in China

Authors: Terence Halliday, Sida Liu, University of Wisconsin, Department of Sociology and School of Law
Terence Halliday and Sida Liu are completing a National Science Foundation funded research program that studies the development of criminal procedure law and practice in China. The research has…

Capabilities and Self-control: Implications for Crime, Health and the Law

Author: James J. Heckman
Capabilities are the capacities that affect social performance: cognition, personality, and health. This project supports joint research on the economics and psychology of capabilities with an…

Colorism and Sentence Length

Author: Traci Burch
Exploration of the relationship of skin color and disparities in criminal sentencing in Georgia, a state that classifies inmates by skin color as well as race. Early unpublished findings indicate…

Imprisonment and Neighborhood Political Participation

Author: Traci Burch
This project explores the impact of mass imprisonment and other aspects of the criminal justice system on political behavior. A book stemming from the project, entitled Trading Democracy for…
Home Foreclosures and Criminal Violence
Authors: John Hagan, Andrea Cann Chandrasekher
This is a study of the patterning of bank foreclosures in Chicago and the possible relationship of foreclosures to neighborhood increases in person and property crime.
Moral Judgment and the Psychology of Legal Blame
Author: Janice Nadler
In this project, I propose to conduct a series of experiments to map the contours ofpsychological blame, as it is influenced by the wrongdoer’s motive, the wrongdoer’s character, and…
Explaining Death and Atrocity in Darfur
Authors: John Hagan, Alberto Palloni
Drawing on a unique set of data - interviews with refugees - this project is examining empirically the claims of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. It will provide an objective and…
Parental Incarceration and Intergenerational Social Exclusion: “The Long Arm of the Law”
Authors: John Hagan, Holly Foster
This study is designed to better understand the difference that parental incarceration makes in the life of an adolescent. American incarceration is four times larger than in the 1970s, six to ten…
Popular Justice, Communal Violence, and Alternative Policing in the New South Africa (2004-2008)
Authors: John Comaroff, Jean Comaroff
South Africa is currently beset by so-called “vigilantism,” a term that covers a range of different kinds of “alternative” policing, retributive violence, and popular justice,…

Law and globalization

World Justice Project

Authors: James J. Heckman, Robert L. Nelson
The World Justice Project (WJP) is a multinational, multidisciplinary initiative to strengthen the rule of law worldwide. It is building a broad and diverse constituency that will advance the rule of…

Ethnicity, Inc

Author: John Comaroff
This study investigates the conditions under which ethnic groupings seek empowerment by incorporating themselves, by deploying their sovereign legal status for economic ends, and by copyrighting…

Rule of Law Discourses

Author: Jothie Rajah
This study analyses the different ways in which global institutional actors (the UN, the World Bank, the International Commission of Jurists, the World Justice Project) define ‘rule of…

Writing Rights: Innovation and Diffusion in National Constitutions

Author: Tom Ginsburg
This project examines the origins and diffusion of rights in national constitutions from 1789 to present, using new data from the Comparative Constitutions Project. Unlike the existing literature,…
Punctuated Globalization:  Law, Institutionalization, and Globalization in Medicine and Health Care
Author: Carol A. Heimer
This project will use the case of medicine and health care to look closely at how developments in law affect globalization. The legal regulation of health care is a useful arena in which to…
Global Legislators: The Making of International Trade Law
Authors: Terence Halliday, Susan Block-Lieb
This book project provides an empirically-based analysis of how global norms are produced for international trade law, which states or non-state organizations are the most influential shapers of…
Crime, War and Wealth in Pre-and Post-Invasion Iraq
Author: John Hagan
The U.S. led invasion and occupation of Iraq by Coalition forces coincided with a transformation in crimes against persons and property. Drawing on three data sets outlining the experiences of a…
Globalization of Law and Markets
Author: Terence Halliday
In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008/2009, Stanford University Press published the prize-winning Bankrupt: Global Lawmaking and Systemic Financial Crisis. Authors Terence Halliday and…
Globalization of Law and Basic Legal Freedoms
Author: Terence Halliday
Across the world basic legal freedoms are being fought for, consolidated, and defended. That is the case for nations that have never enjoyed those freedoms, for nations that have advanced towards and…
World Justice Project
Author: James J. Heckman
The World Justice Project, sponsored by the American Bar Association, seeks to broaden and institutionalize the network of organizations and individuals committed to advancing the rule of law. The…
The Legal Transformation of Medicine: How Rules Work in the International World of HIV/AIDS
Author: Carol A. Heimer
This book project braids together investigations of three transformative events - the “legalization” and internationalization of medicine and the advent of HIV/AIDS - in a study of how…

Legal history

Civil Rights: An American History 

Author: Christopher Schmidt
This book project offers a history of how Americans have struggled over the meaning of the term civil rights from the Civil War through today. The work offers an explantion of a label initially…

The Sit-Ins: Protest and Legal Change in the Civil Rights Era 

Authors:
This book project is a legal history of the lunch counter sit-in movement of 1960s. It tells the story of the sit-ins, the events they set in motion, and what they achieved. The central argument is…

Only the Clothes on Her Back

Author: Laura F. Edwards
Only the Clothes on Her Back shifts the analytical frame from property the minority owned to property the majority possessed, a shift that changes our understandings of Americans' relationship to the…

Law for a Gospel Church: African American Religion and Legal Culture, 1865-1970

Author: Dylan C. Penningroth

Local Courts and African American Life, 1865-1970

Author: Dylan C. Penningroth
This book project seeks to describe and analyze African Americans’ participation in law at the local level from the Civil War to the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement. It combines…

Constructing Brown v. Board of Education: Ideology and Constitutional Change, 1944-2007

Author: Christopher Schmidt
This book project examines how people have used-and more often than not misused-Brown and its history to advance claims about the meaning of constitutional equality, the impact of segregation, the…
Suing Henry Ford: America's First Hate Speech Case
Author: Victoria Saker Woeste
This project examines a well-known event in the life of Henry Ford -- a 1927 federal libel lawsuit against him and his antisemitic newspaper -- from the perspective of the people who sought to stop…
Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865
Author: Christopher L. Tomlins
Freedom Bound, published September 2010, is the end product of a project of research that has examined the legal history of work and labor, the history of colonizing, and the construction of civic…
The Cambridge History of Law in America
Authors: Christopher L. Tomlins, Michael Grossberg
In 2001, the American Bar Foundation pledged resources to support the production of a multi-volume, multi-contributor history of law in America to be published by Cambridge University Press. The…
Legacies of Slavery in Early-twentieth-century Gold Coast Africa
Author: Dylan C. Penningroth
The histories of Ghana and the U.S. South during the nineteenth century were significantly shaped by debates about the claims that slaves and their descendants made to kinship and to the products of…
Law and Everyday Life among Black Southerners
Authors:
This study focuses on husband-wife relations, the rise of the independent black church, migration, and the interaction between legal categories and popular conceptions such as respectability and…
The People's Government: Law and the Creation of a Modern American State, 1877-1932
Author: William J. Novak
This project is the second installment in a more long term effort to write a legal history of the American State and Police Power from the American Revolution to the present. The first segment of…

Legal profession

Research Group on Legal Diversity

Authors: Robert L. Nelson, Ronit Dinovitzer
The American Bar Foundation is committed to expanding equity and opportunity within the legal profession and in society at large. It pursues this goal in the selection of its leadership, the hiring…

After the JD

Authors: Bryant G. Garth, Robert L. Nelson, Ronit Dinovitzer, Gabriele Plickert, Joyce Sterling
The After the JD (AJD) project is the first and most ambitious effort to gather systematic, detailed data about the careers and experiences of a national cross-section of law graduates. It follows a…

Legal Education: Challenges, Changes, and Rhetoric – an Empirical Exploration

Authors: Stephen Daniels, Parts of the project are being done in collaboration with Professor David Thomson, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, Denver, CO
This project’s objective is straightforward - to follow up on and expand the work of the 2014-15 American Bar Association Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education (Daniels served as the…

Licensed Legal Professionals and the Justice Gap 

Authors: Stephen Daniels, The project is being done in collaboration with Dean and Professor James Bowers, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY
Using nurse practitioners as a reference point this project his two main goals: exploring the role such professionals can play in providing access to justice, and examining the current and past…

The Language of Law Professors: In Their Own Voices

Author: Elizabeth Mertz
A companion study to the “Senior Status” project, this research provides a more fine-grained and linguistically sophisticated perspective on today’s law professors in the U.S.. Data…

After Tenure: Senior Status in the Legal Academy

Authors: Elizabeth Mertz, Katherine Barnes, University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law; Wamucii Njogu, Northeastern Illinois University
This is the first national study examining the post-tenure experiences of law professors in the United States. Tenured law professors shape many aspects of the institutional settings within law…

The Law of Law Professors: In Their Own Voices

Authors:
A companion study to the “Senior Status” project, this research provides a more fine-grained and linguistically sophisticated perspective on today’s law professors in the U.S.. Data…

The Rise of Lawyer Activism in China

Authors: Terence Halliday, Sida Liu
A study of the varieties of activism exercised by China’s lawyers in criminal defense, the protection of basic legal freedoms, and public interest causes, such as health, the environment,…

Lawyers in the Pursuit of Basic Legal Rights: Criminal Defense in China

Authors: Terence Halliday, Sida Liu
This project undertakes a major empirical study on criminal defense lawyers and political liberalism in China using a combination of social science methods, including interviews, media analysis,…

A Cohort Study of the Global Economic Recession and the Early Careers of Women and Men Lawyers in New York City, Paris, and Frankfurt

Authors: John Hagan, Patricia Parker, Gabriele Plickert, Hans Merkens
This research is expanding a national U.S. study of lawyers (the American Bar Foundation’s After the JD study) to include two cities in Germany - Frankfurt and Berlin. This will be a…

The Language of Law School

Author: Elizabeth Mertz
This project, funded by the American Bar Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, examined the language of first-year law school classrooms. Employing an innovative empirical design, the study used…

Early Post-Law School Careers of Women and Men Lawyers in U.S. and German Cities

Authors: John Hagan, Hans Merkens, Patricia Parker, and Gabriele Plickert
International Study of Lawyers Berlin - Frankfurt am Main - New York City - Washington D.C. Free University Berlin and Law Associations of Berlin and Frankfurt Internationale…
After Tenure:  Senior Status in the Legal Academy
Authors:
This is the first national study examining the post-tenure experiences of law professors in the United States. Tenured law professors shape many aspects of the institutional settings within law…
Networks among Lawyers Active in National Policymaking
Authors: John P. Heinz, Ann Southworth , Anthony Paik
This study examines the networks of relationships among lawyers engaged in a broad range of political issues, including abortion, gun control, judicial selection, eminent domain, bankruptcy, medical…
From Law School to Later Life
Authors: John Hagan, Fiona Kay and Ronald J. Daniels
The purpose of this research is to increase our understanding of how the large-scale entry of women with men into the profession in the last quarter of the 20th century has changed both the…
Urban Lawyers: The New Social Structure of the Bar
Authors: John P. Heinz, Robert L. Nelson, John P. Heinz, Robert L. Nelson, Rebecca L. Sandefur and Edward O. Laumann
Published by The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2005 Over the past several decades, the number of lawyers in large cities has doubled, women have entered the bar at an…
Corporate Purchasing of Legal Services
Author: Ryon Lancaster
This project, which is a collaborative effort with the Program on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, examines the processes by which large corporations, and in particular the general…
Lawyers of the Right, Networks and Organization
Authors: John P. Heinz, Anthony Paik , Ann Southworth
Lawyers for conservative and libertarian causes are active in organizing interest groups within the conservative coalition, and networks of relationships among those lawyers help to maintain and…
A Peace Corps for Lawyers: From Legal Services to the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative
Authors: John Hagan, Ron Levi
This project is an historical and empirical study of the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (CEELI) and its life course implications for its voluntary lawyer participants. It represents…

Regulation

Big Data Meets Urban Social Science

Author: Robert J. Sampson
Cities are back, urbanization is rapidly expanding around the world, and new forms of data are presenting unique opportunities for urban research. In a sense, we can think of the current era as…

Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods

Author: Robert J. Sampson
Originating in the early 1990s, the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) was designed to advance understanding of the developmental and contextual pathways of human behavior.…

Public Opinion, Private Governance, and the Influence of Source Credibility

Authors: Janice Nadler, David A. Dana, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
In this project, we seek to explore whether corporate endorsements and implementations of practices influence public support for legislation and regulation that would generally mandate such…

Surrogate Decisionmaking at the End of Life: An Observational Study

Author: Susan P. Shapiro
The most significant “life-and-death” decisions of our lives - literally - are overwhelmingly made by others who act on our behalf when we are not competent to make our own medical…
The Impact of Banks, Regulation, and Taxes on the Survival and Operation of Entrepreneurial Ventures
Author: Austan Goolsbee
This project is using confidential data from the U.S. Census about the characteristics of entrepreneurs and small business owners to examine the impact of tax and other policies on the operation of…

Social justice

Cause Lawyering in Context

Authors: Laura Beth Nielsen, Catherine Albiston
The Constraints and Opportunities of Practicing Public Law in Public Interest Law firms will provide an unprecedented, empirical portrait of a national sample of the public interest bar.

Antigone, Interrupted

Author: Bonnie Honig
Antigone, the heroine of Sophocles' famous 5th centruy play and a nearly universal figure of civil disobedience admired today worldwide by lawyers and activists alike, has been absorbed into a…

Reconstituting Civic Community: Hate Speech and the State in the Post-World War II Era

Author: Victoria Saker Woeste
This project explores the relationship between hate speech regulation, school desegregation, and public housing desegregation laws in Midwestern U.S. cities after 1945.

Limiting Laws: Negotiating Crime, Legal Status, and Immigration Law

Author: Sarah Morando Lakhani
What challenges and opportunities does the U.S. government present to immigrant crime victims and their lawyers through the new U Visa legal status? How do immigrant petitioners and their attorneys…

Mediated Justice: How Videoconferencing Shapes Deportation

Author: Sarah Morando Lakhani
Although the U.S. legal system is typically reluctant to adopt technological innovations, many courts have been receptive to video technology. However, videoconferencing has only penetrated the…

The Mexican Second Generation at Work in a New Destination

Author: Sarah Morando Lakhani
A wealth of research has analyzed the labor market integration of Mexican immigrants in new rural and urban destinations across the United States. Today, after two decades of settled migration in…

Mediated Justice: How Videoconferencing Shapes Deportation

Authors:
Although the U.S. legal system is typically reluctant to adopt technological innovations, many courts have been receptive to video technology. However, videoconferencing has only penetrated the…

Limiting Laws: Negotiating Crime, Legal Status, and Immigration Law

Authors:
What challenges and opportunities does the U.S. government present to immigrant crime victims and their lawyers through the new U Visa legal status? How do immigrant petitioners and their attorneys…
The Effects of Land Restitution in South Africa: A Qualitative Study
Author: Bernadette Atuahene
Under the South African Restitution of Land Rights Act (LRA), only those dispossessed of a “right in land after 1913 as a result of a racially discriminatory law or practice” are eligible…
Contested Constructions of Discrimination
Authors: Laura Beth Nielsen, Jill D. Weinberg , Jeremy Freese
Contested Constructions uses experimental research to investigate how judges and laypeople define employment discrimination and perceptions of the legal system as the appropriate forum to adjudicate…
Pursuing Law’s Promise: Researching Access to Justice in 21st Century America
Authors: Robert L. Nelson, Laura Beth Nielsen, Aaron C. Smyth
Through a series of innovative empirical research projects, Pursuing Law’s Promise investigates Americans’ experiences with their civil justice problems and the institutions of remedy…
Legal Services for the Poor: A Supply Side Analysis
Author: Joanne Martin
Providing adequate legal services to the poor is a perennial problem. Typically, it is addressed in terms of the amount of unmet demand. Little attention, however, is paid to the supply side of the…
Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine
Authors: Steven D. Levitt, Roland Fryer
This project is developing a statistical index to measure the extent to which crack cocaine can account for the adverse trends in many indicators of African American progress in major urban areas…
The Foundation and Application of Disparate Impact Doctrine
Author: James J. Heckman
The goals of this project include (1) the development of models and methods for detecting discrimination due to disparate treatment and disparate impact; (2) the examination of the extension of…

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