Paul J. Wahlbeck

Professor of Political Science, Columbian College of Arts & Sciences; Professor of Law (By Courtesy)
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052

Paul Wahlbeck, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, studies Supreme Court decision making. 

He is interested in strategic behavior of the justices as documented in their personal papers. He has examined the chief justice’s assignment of majority opinions, finding that his choice is guided by policy concerns, but is constrained by the organizational needs of the Court. This work (with Forrest Maltzman) has been published in The American Journal of Political SciencePolitical Research QuarterlyJudicature, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. He has also studied strategic voting from fluidity in vote choice between the preliminary conference vote to the final vote on the merits and the decision to pass at conference. Articles exploring those topics have been published in the American Political Science Review (with Forrest Maltzman) and Law & Society Review (with Tim Johnson and Jim Spriggs). He also has explored the deliberative process when there is substantial give and take among the justices as opinions are drafted and justices seek accommodation from the author. This research has appeared in print in a Cambridge University Press book and articles in outlets like the Journal of Politics (with Forrest Maltzman and Jim Spriggs). Finally, Wahlbeck has explored the centrality of information on the Supreme Court decision making in studies on the role of amici curiae (with Jim Spriggs in Political Research Quarterly) and the quality of attorney arguments before the Supreme Court (with Tim Johnson and Jim Spriggs in the American Political Science Review).

Currently, Wahlbeck is using citations of Supreme Court decisions to explore judicial policy making. Using citation data and network analysis, he has examined with James Fowler, Jim Spriggs, Tim Johnson, and Sangick Jeon patterns within and across cases to create importance scores that identify the most legally relevant precedents. In a project with Frank Cross, Jim Spriggs, and Tim Johnson, he investigated the role of citations in opinions and how they can be used to test stare decisis and the Court’s projection of power and legitimation of its authority. Finally, with Tim Johnson and Jim Spriggs, he is exploring the development of the norm of stare decisis using citation data.


BA, Wheaton College; JD, University of Illinois; PhD, Washington University, St. Louis