[PAST EVENT] Wythe Lecture: Professor Lee Epstein

November 6, 2014
3:30pm - 5pm
Law School, Room 124
613 S Henry St
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
In the introduction to their recent book, The Behavior of Federal Judges, William M. Landes, Richard A. Posner, and Lee Epstein note that although judges play a central role in the American legal system, their behavior and, in particular, the determinants of their decisions are not well understood by lawyers, law professors, and even many judges. The system permits judges to be secretive, so indirect methods are required to make sense of their behavior. Beginning more than half a century ago but accelerating in recent decades, social scientists--political scientists in particular, but also economists and psychologists, and, increasingly, academic lawyers knowledgeable about social science--have used ever more sophisticated theoretical concepts and quantitative tools to penetrate self-serving judicial rhetoric, go beyond judges' limited self-understanding, and place the study of judicial behavior on a scientific basis.

Prof. Epstein's lecture will survey the field of judicial behavior, highlight key findings, and offer a response to some of the concerns raised by members of the legal community. She hopes to convey her belief that in a case law system such as ours, a realistic understanding of judicial behavior, which conventional legal instruction does not convey, is essential to the understanding and practice of law.


Lee Epstein is the Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor at the Washington University in St. Louis, where she is also the Co-Director of the Center on Empirical Research in Law. During the 2013-2014 academic year, she is also serving as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago.

Professor Epstein is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Her previous positions include the Provost Professor of Law & Political Science and Rader Family Trustee Chair in Law at the University of Southern California; the Henry Wade Rogers Professorship, a University-wide chair, at Northwestern University; and the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.

A recipient of twelve grants from the National Science Foundation for her work on law and legal institutions, Professor Epstein has authored or co-authored over 100 articles and essays as well as 15 books, including The Choices Justices Make (CQ Press, 1998) (co-authored with Jack Knight), which won the Pritchett Award for the Best Book on Law and Courts and, more recently, the Lasting Contribution Award "for a book or journal article, 10 years or older, that has made a lasting impression on the field of law and courts." Her book The Behavior of Federal Judges, with William M. Landes and Richard A. Posner, was published by Harvard University Press in 2013. Her most recent book, An Introduction to Empirical Legal Research (with Andrew D. Martin), will be published later this year by Oxford University Press.

Professor Epstein is a Co-Editor of the Journal of Law, Economics & Organization; chair of the Law School Admission Council's Grants Subcommittee; Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation funded project on the U.S. Supreme Court Database; and a member of the editorial/advisory boards of American Politics Research, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, GreenBag Almanac & Reader, Judicature, Law & Policy, Oxford Handbooks Online, Politics and Governance, and Social Science Quarterly. She is former chair of the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and a past President of the International Society for New Institutional Economics (ISNIE) and the Midwest Political Science Association.

The George Wythe Lecture Series began at the Law School in 1976. Wythe (1726-1806) was a distinguished lawyer, statesman, and judge, and mentor to Thomas Jefferson. In 1779, at Jefferson's urging, he was appointed as William & Mary's--and the nation's--first professor of law.