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Research Projects

Civil justice

Conceptualizing Property Takings

Using the concept of a “dignity taking,” linking the unconsented taking of property rights with the deprivation of dignity, this research project seeks to further understand the…

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'…

Access to Justice

Author: Rebecca Sandefur
Since 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…

Tenant Screening and Fair Housing Law in the Information Age

Author: Anna Reosti
This project contains two extensions of a larger study of tenant screening and fair housing law in the information age. The first extension investigates the costs of housing searches for renters with…

Contested Constructions of Discrimination

Author: Laura Beth Nielsen
Despite the volume of empirical research about employment civil rights litigation, we know very little about how people come to assess whether workplace experiences are thought to be…

Consent to Sex on Campus

Author: Laura Beth Nielsen
This project is a multi-year, large-scale data collection and analysis phase of a research project about “new” civil rights. Nielsen is studying the impact (if any) of the Obama-era…

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

Authors: Robert L. Nelson, Rachel F. Moran
To learn more about our Future of Latinos project, please visit: "The Future of Latinos in the United States: Law, Opportunity, and Mobility" has three goals: 1) To advance…

Criminal justice

Policing and Political Participation 

Author: Traci Burch
Despite the prominence of policing and police misconduct on the national agenda, scholars still know very little about the extent to which police act in ways that are contrary to the public good and…

Adolescent and Adult Lives of Children of Parents Returning From Prison

Author: John Hagan
What is the impact of a parent returning from prison on their child? This project collects data on the historic return of parents from prison and its impact on the lives of their children. The…

Criminal Defense in China

Authors: Terence Halliday, Sida Liu
Terence Halliday and Sida Liu completed a National Science Foundation funded research project that studied the development of criminal procedure law and practice in China between 2005 and 2015. The…

Parental Incarceration

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…

Law and globalization

Buddhism and Comparative Constitutional Law

Authors: Tom Ginsburg, Benjamin Schonthal
This project investigates the role, influence and transformations of Buddhism in the context of Asian constitutional practice, past and present. This topic is one that has not been studied, even as…

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 globalization of medicine and the advent of HIV/AIDS - in a study of how laws,…

Legal Defenses Against Democratic Decline

Author: Tom Ginsburg
ABF Research Professor Tom Ginsburg and his colleague Aziz Huq, University of Chicago Law School Professor, explore how democracies erode and how to better uphold democratic values by drawing on…

Globalization of Law and Markets

Author: Terence Halliday
This longstanding research program examines the ways global institutions create law for world trade and shape national markets. The most recently completed project studied interactions among global,…

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…

Legal history

Gender, the Legal Regulation of Race, and the Making of Modern Criminal Justice

Author: Tera Agyepong
The study, which focuses on the twentieth-century emergence of women’s courts and carceral institutions for girls, will elucidate the ways in which gender has shaped racialized processes of…

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. It provides an historical case study of…

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

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

The VAT Laggard: A Comparative History of U.S. Resistance to the Value-added Tax

Author: Ajay K. Mehrotra
This project explores how and why the United States has historically rejected national consumption taxes. Nearly all developed countries, and many in the developing world, have some type of a…

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…

Legal profession

The Hero and the Monsignor: Law, Sexual Violence, and the Catholic Church

Authors: Robert L. Nelson, Laura Beth Nielsen
This project examines the sexual abuse of minors through a case study of lawsuits brought against a Catholic archdiocese for failure to prevent sexual abuse by priests. With permission from the…

Portrait Project 2.0

Authors: Ajay K. Mehrotra, Hon. Goodwin Liu, Shih-Chun Chien
Asian Americans are a growing presence in all sectors of the legal profession. They work in BigLaw and in smaller firms and solo practice, and as government attorneys, corporate counsel, prosecutors,…

Rule of Law Discourses

Author: Jothie Rajah
‘Rule of law’ is a concept and category that is incessantly invoked in the international public domain. At different times and in different hands, a range of different meanings has…

The Financing of Legal Education

Author: Stephen Daniels
This project follows up on and expands the work of the American Bar Association Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education (Daniels served as the reporter and consultant for the Task Force). It…

Alternative Legal Professionals

Author: Stephen Daniels
The lack of access to competent legal assistance because of the absence of resources, social capital, awareness, or because of geographic distance is described as a justice gap. The existence of this…

Science and the Legal System

Author: Shari Seidman Diamond
This research (with Richard O. Lempert) considers the relationship between scientists and engineers and the legal system. Surveys and in-depth interviews have yielded a wealth of findings, including…

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…

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…


Trust 2.0: Law, Social Control, and New Technologies of Trust

Author: Susan P. Shapiro
Observers of the world of trust or fiduciary relationships have identified an evolution from institutional trust-which flows upward from individuals to states, organizations, and third parties-to…

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…

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