Although my scholarship initially centered on the Supreme Court of the United States and other federal and state appellate courts (e.g. Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Revival, 1996, a critical study of the justice), since 1997 I have focused my research on popular conceptions and utilization of law and rights and how these conceptions are integrated into the general process of governance. In conducting this research I have gradually learned the importance of the creation and application of individual’s social identity to the utilization of or opposition to legality. For example, as illustrated in my book about the Pittston Coal strike (A Strike Like No Other Strike, 2002), the social identification of coal miners as a moral community locked them into a protracted violent conflict with police and a coal operator who conceptualized the dispute within a legal framework. The result was a “discursive breakdown”; or an inability to find a common language so they could discuss a solution to the conflict. Currently I am specifically interested in three questions. (1) What is the role of the social identity of persons, groups, animals, and objects in support for legalized accountability or resistance to laws and the decisions of courts? (2) How do conflicts about social identity, normative values, and the role of political institutions influence the formulation and implementation of law by legislators, administrators, and judges? (3) What conditions generate various forms of political resistance to legality? An overview of the third question appears in my article “Resistance to Legality” in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science [6: 25-44, 2010].
In 2016 Susan Hunter and I published Pet Politics: The Political and Legal Lives of Cats, Dogs, and Horses in Canada and the United States. Purdue University Press released it in its New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond series. In the book our argument is that the animal welfare and animal legal rights movements have engaged in a protracted and often frustrating political struggle to expand policies and laws beneficial for the lives of cats, dogs, and horses. Why have these movements not succeeded in the political struggle? The first chapters of this book critically examine how individuals frame the social identity of companion animals, define cruelty, and express their expectations about the extent of legal accountability that people bear toward pets. Using data from multinational public opinion and elite surveys that we administered and an analysis of narratives about animals found in a range of legislative and judicial documents, we discern how people assign conflicting of social identities, cruelty norms, and legal categories to companion animals. We next evaluate how interest groups sharpen and politicize this range of identities and values. Then, using original quantitative data and case studies of a series of political struggles about the adoption of laws that affect the lives of cats, dogs, and horses we examine the political conflicts and political resistance that influences the formulation of companion animal law by legislators, administrators, and judges. The political conflicts examined include the passage of anti-cruelty laws, kennel licensing legislation, horse slaughter regulation, laws governing roaming and feral cats, and canine breed bans. A subsequent chapter examines the factors that affect the implementation of the law and that result in the limited enforcement of laws and policies designed to protect cats, dogs, and horses. In conclusion we summarize our findings that most changes in pet policy only incrementally modify the treatment of cats, dogs, and horses, that unified animal welfare and animal rights movements do not exist, and why resistance exists against the further development of laws and policies that protect the welfare of pets or grant them a greater degree of legal protection or autonomy. Also we consider whether new laws and policies signaling greater concern for animal welfare and protection can grant legitimacy to different ways of perceiving and treating cats, dogs, and horses and serve as a catalyst to mobilize citizens and groups in efforts to extend laws and policies to protect pets and curtail the violence and casual cruelty they often suffer.
Additionally, I have published several dozen articles and book chapters on state courts and state and local administrative agency dispute resolution. I have served as lead author of West Virginia Politics and Government 2d ed. and have published on various aspects of West Virginia politics. With John Kilwein I have published Real Law Stories, 2010,% a introductory supplementary text for judicial politics courses.
Access to my recent books, publications, and papers and to various sources of information about judicial politics is possible by using the tabs above.
At the undergraduate level I have routinely taught:
POLS 210: Law and the Legal System (An introduction to legality and the judicial politics)
POLS 313: Constitutional Law (The U.S. Supreme Court and separated powers, federalism, and economic regulation)
POLS 314: Civil Liberties in the U.S. (The U.S. Supreme Court, constitutional law, and individual rights)
POLS 315: Law and Public Policy (Law and society studies that focus on the politics of routine litigation)
POLS 331: Criminal Law, Policy, and Administration (The politics of police, courtroom workgroup agencies, and the constitutional law of criminal justice)
At the graduate level I have taught
POLS 712: American Constitutional and Political Development.