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First Name
Last Name
University of California, Berkeley
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legal history, social welfare, poverty policy, disability, public assistance, welfare state, modern American state, administrative state, regulation
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Personal Info

About Me

I study U.S. legal history, with a focus on poverty law and policy, administrative agencies, rights language, federalism, and the modern American state.

My 2016 book, States of Dependency, explores legal contests over welfare benefits and administration between the New Deal and the modern welfare rights movement. I discuss contests between different levels of government; between competing interests at the federal level; and between everyday people and the welfare administrators who controlled the benefits they sought. Ultimately, the book aims to shed new light on the nature of modern American governance by showcasing the evolving tactics of federal “statebuilders,” as well as the endurance of non-centralized, discretionary modes of regulation.

I have also written about the historical relationship between rights and governance; the practical meaning of American federalism; the ways that federal administrators have interpreted constitutional rights (“administrative constitutionalism”); and the contested terrain of equality.

My current research focuses on disability rights and administrative agencies in the late twentieth century.

You can also find me at the Legal History Blog, where I’m a regular contributor.

Recent Publications

States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

“An Administrative Right to Be Free from Sexual Violence?: Title IX Enforcement in Historical and Institutional Perspective,” Duke Law Journal 66 (2017).

“Clio and the Compound Republic,” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 47 (2017) (invited contribution to symposium on the legacy of Martha Derthick) (with Brent Cebul and Mason Williams).

“Something Old, Something New: Reflections on the Sex Bureaucracy,” California Law Review Circuit 7 (2016) (invited response to Jacob Gersen & Jeannie Suk’s The Sex Bureaucracy) (with Melissa Murray).

Federalism Anew,” American Journal of Legal History 56 (2016) (invited contribution to symposium on the future of legal history) (with Sara Mayeux).

“Administrative Equal Protection: Federalism, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Rights of the Poor,” Cornell Law Review 100 (2015).

“States’ Rights, Welfare Rights, and ‘The Indian Problem’: Negotiating Citizenship and Sovereignty, 1935-1954,” Law and History Review 33 (2015).

“Welfare and Rights before the Movement: Rights as a Language of the State,” Yale Law Journal 122 (2012).

Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
20th century
Expertise by Topic