Political scientist and legal theorist Jack Knight to join Duke Law Faculty

October 1, 2007Duke Law News

October 1, 2007 -- Jack Knight, the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government at Washington University of St. Louis, has accepted an offer to join the law and political science faculties of Duke University. A renowned political scientist and legal theorist, Knight’s scholarly work focuses on modern social and political theory, law and legal theory, and political economy.

He will hold appointments at the Law School and in Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, where he will teach in Trinity’s Politics, Philosophy and Economics Program. At the Law School, he will teach courses on social scientific approaches to law and courts, as well as courses on the political economy of social institutions. He will join Duke in the fall of 2008.

“Jack Knight is one of the world’s foremost scholars on the political economy of institutions,” said Michael Munger, chair of Political Science Department in Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. “He bridges the worlds of the scholar of political philosophy and the theorist and practitioner of the law. An experienced attorney, he has made contributions in philosophy, economics, political science, and law. Duke is very fortunate to have attracted a scholar and teacher with such a broad array of talents and interests.”

Law School Dean David Levi said Knight will further enhance the school’s interdisciplinary study of law.

“Studying law requires an understanding of a wide variety of disciplines,” Levi said. “Jack Knight brings to our faculty and students a deep and authoritative knowledge of political philosophy, law, and economics that will enhance our curricular offerings and research efforts. His work is path-breaking in many fields, but for scholars of the law, his study of judicial behavior and decision making has been particularly important. We’re very excited to welcome him to Duke and to the Law School.”

Knight is recognized for research on the problem of the rules and norms that organize human activities in nations, Munger said. In addition to study of the motivations and decisions of judges, he has examined the effects of the norm of extensive prior judicial experience as a prerequisite for service on the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as several other aspects of how courts make decisions and how judges choose their positions in opinions.

“His work on the strategic behavior of judges and understanding institutions has caused paradigm shifts in the way we understand the relationships between institutions and human behavior,” said Mitu Gulati, a Duke Law professor who is an expert in, among other things, judicial behavior. “It took some time for law professors to apply the work that Jack Knight and others like [Northwestern political science professor] Lee Epstein have done, but now it’s almost unacceptable not to take their insights into consideration when studying judicial behavior. It’s quite tremendous that he has joined our faculty. Having Jack Knight in our midst is going to improve the work that all of us do at the Law School.”

“I am very excited about the move to Duke,” Knight said. “Duke’s faculties of law and political science are among the very best in their respective fields. The opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research on questions of law and the judicial process with members of both faculties was simply too good to pass up.”

Knight is the author of several books Institutions and Social Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 1992), Explaining Social Institutions (with Itai Sened) (The University of Michigan Press, 1995), and The Choices Justices Make (with Lee Epstein) (Congressional Quarterly Press, 1997), which won the American Political Science Association’s C. Herman Prichett Award for the best book published on law and courts. He co-edited Courts, Judges and Politics (McGraw-Hill, 6th Edition, 2005) and has published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes on such topics as democratic theory, the rule of law, judicial decision-making, and theories of institutional emergence and change.

Knight holds a bachelor’s degree and J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science, both from the University of Chicago. He is a visiting professor at the International Center for Business and Politics of the Copenhagen Business School and has served as a visiting scholar with the Russell Sage Foundation and the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany.

At Washington University, Knight served as chair of the Department of Political Science from 1999 to 2002 and 2003 to 2004. He is a fellow of the university’s Center for Political Economy and a member of the Committee on Social Thought and Analysis, and he has served as member and chair of the Faculty Council, on the executive committee of American Culture Studies, as secretary of the Senate Council and Faculty Senate, and as a member of the Fulbright Grants Committee, among many others. He joined the Department of Political Science in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in 1988.

Prior to joining Washington University’s faculty, Knight taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan and was an attorney with the Peninsula Legal Aid Center in Hampton, Virginia.