Max Stearns

Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law




(410) 706-3942


(410) 706-2184

Photo of Max Stearns


  • BA, 1983, University of Pennsylvania
  • JD, 1987, University of Virginia

Max Stearns, Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, is an interdisciplinary scholar. He applies the methodologies of economics, broadly defined, to study private and public law, along with institutional decision-making processes. His work combines such tools as neoclassical economics, interest group theory, social choice, and game theory, among others, to study legal doctrines and lawmaking systems. Much of his work centers on structural aspects of constitutional decision making in the Supreme Court, along with such specific doctrines as standing, the commerce clause, and equal protection.

Professor Stearns’s forthcoming book, Parliamentary America: The Least Radical Mean of Radically Repairing Our Broken Democracy, forthcoming JHU Press in 2024, tackles among the most pressing issues of our time. Our democracy is in crisis. Scholars and media commentators recognize it and offer a variety of prescriptions for reform. Professor Stearns explains why nearly all widely discussed proposals will not resolve the crisis, cannot be adopted, or both. Professor Stearns explains the need for radical reform affecting our electoral system and system of executive accountability, and he offers specific proposals to bring such changes to fruition. Parliamentary America is firmly grounded in history and theory and is interspersed with familiar cultural references and childhood games. While written for a general audience, citizens concerned about the future of our democracy, the book offers rich insights to experts, as well as students, of constitutional reform. His last book, Law and Economics: Private and Public (West Academic 2018) (with Todd Zywicki and Tom Miceli), comprehensively applies a broad range of economic methodologies to subject matters across the law school curriculum. The book surveys first-year courses along with many upper-level subjects, and it embraces both private and public legal domains. Professor Stearns is also author of Constitutional Process: A Social Choice Analysis of Supreme Court Decision Making (University of Michigan Press, paperback edition 2002), which provides a systematic analysis of how collective decision-making processes shape doctrines and case outcomes in the Supreme Court.

Professor Stearns’s scholarly articles appear in leading academic journals: Yale Law Journal, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, California Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, Notre Dame Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, and The University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. During the COVID pandemic, Professor Stearns created, and he continues to run, the Virtual Constitutional Law & Economics Workshop, bringing together leading interdisciplinary scholars throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He also blogs at on law, politics, and culture.

Professor Stearns has run the Maryland Carey Law Virtual Constitutional Law and Economics Workshop, which brings in scholars from leading institutions across the U.S. and around the world, since 2017. Scholars interested in being part of this series are welcome to join.

Professor Stearns joined the faculty at Maryland Carey Law in fall 2006. Professor Stearns previously had been professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law since 1992. Professor Stearns practiced law as a litigation associate with Palmer & Dodge in Boston and with Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz in Philadelphia. Professor Stearns earned his BA, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania and his JD from the University of Virginia, where he was a member of the Virginia Law Review and the Order of the Coif. He clerked for the Honorable Harrison L. Winter, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Professor Stearns has taught courses in law and economics, public choice, and constitutional law at the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland; the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia; and Canterbury University Department of Economics and Finance, Christchurch, New Zealand (as visiting Erskine Fellow). He has been a visiting professor at the University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law, and at the University of Michigan Law School.

Professor Stearns served as associate dean for research and faculty development from 2013 to 2017. Professor Stearns teaches Constitutional Law I and II (Governance and Individual Rights) and Law and Economics.


Parliamentary America: The Least Radical Means of Radically Repairing Our Broken Democracy (forthcoming 2024). Abstract

Law and Economics: Private and Public (2018) (with Todd J. Zywicki and Thomas Miceli). Abstract

Teacher's Manual to Law and Economics: Private and Public (2018) (with Todd Zywicki & Tom Miceli).

Public Choice Concepts and Applications in Law (2009) (with Todd J. Zywicki). Abstract

Constitutional Process: A Social Choice Analysis of Supreme Court Decision Making (2000) (paperback ed. with new afterword, 2002). Abstract

Public Choice and Public Law: Readings and Commentary (1997).

Book Chapters

A Public Choice Perspective, in Methodologies of Law and Economics 44 (Thomas S. Ulen ed., 2017).

A Social Choice View of Law and Economics, in Methodologies of Law and Economics 72 (Thomas S. Ulen ed., 2017) (with Megan McGinnis).

The Economics of Constitutional Law, in The Oxford Handbook of the U.S. Constitution 991 (Mark Tushnet et al. eds., 2015).

Private-Rights Litigation and the Normative Foundations of Durable Constitutional Precedent, in Precedent in the United States Supreme Court 77 (Christopher J. Peters ed., 2013). Abstract

An Introduction to Social Choice, in Elgar Handbook on Public Choice 88 (Daniel A. Farber & Ann Joseph O'Connell eds., 2010). Abstract

A Private-Rights Standing Model to Promote Public-Regarding Behavior by Government-Owned Corporations, in From Bureaucracy to Business Enterprise: Legal and Policy Issues in the Transformation of Government Services (Michael J. Whincop ed., 2002). Abstract


Precedent, Reliance, and Morality at the End of Roe v. Wade, 82 Maryland Law Review Online 108 (2023). Abstract

Modeling Narrowest Grounds, 89 George Washington Law Review 461 (2021). Abstract

Constitutional Law's Conflicting Premises, 96 Notre Dame Law Review 447 (2020). Abstract

Reflections on the Aftermath of Election 2016, 77 Maryland Law Review 271 (2017). Abstract

Obergefell, Fisher, and the Inversion of Tiers, 19 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 1043 (2017). Abstract

Election 2016 and the Structural Constitution: A Preliminary Framing, 76 Maryland Law Review Endnotes 4 (2016). Abstract

Spokeo v. Robins and the Constitutional Foundations of Statutory Standing, 68 Vanderbilt Law Review en banc 221 (2015). Abstract

Constitutional Law in Social Choice Perspective, 163 Public Choice 167 (2015). Abstract

Grains of Sand or Butterfly Effect: Standing, the Legitimacy of Precedent, and Reflections on Hollingsworth and Windsor, 65 Alabama Law Review 349 (2013). Abstract

Commerce Games and the Individual Mandate, 100 Georgetown Law Journal 1117 (2012) (with Leslie Meltzer Henry). Abstract

Direct (Anti-)Democracy, 80 George Washington Law Review 311 (2012). Abstract

Standing at the Crossroads: The Roberts Court in Historical Perspective, 83 Notre Dame Law Review 875 (2008). Abstract

The New Commerce Clause Doctrine in Game Theoretical Perspective, 60 Vanderbilt Law Review 1 (2007). Abstract

Defining Dicta, 57 Stanford Law Review 953 (2005) (with Michael Abramowicz). Abstract

A Beautiful Mend: A Game Theoretical Analysis of the Dormant Commerce Clause Doctrine, 45 William & Mary Law Review 1 (2003). Abstract

Book Review, Appellate Courts Inside Out, 101 Michigan Law Review 1764 (2003) (reviewing Jonathan Matthew Cohen, Inside Appellate Courts (2002)). Abstract

The Condorcet Jury Theorem and Judicial Decision Making: A Reply to Saul Levmore, 3 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 125 (2002). Abstract

Beyond Counting Votes: The Political Economy of Bush v. Gore, 54 Vanderbilt Law Review 1849 (2001) (with Michael Abramowicz). Abstract

From Lujan to Laidlaw: A Preliminary Model of Environmental Standing, 11 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 321 (2001). Abstract

The Case for Including Marks v. United States within the Canon of Constitutional Law, 17 Constitutional Commentary 321 (2001). Abstract

Why Should Lawyers Care About Institutional Data on Courts?, 83 Judicature 236 (2000). Abstract

Should Justices Ever Switch Votes?: Miller v. Albright in Social Choice Perspective, 7 Supreme Court Economic Review 87 (1999). Abstract

The Remand that Made the Court Expand, 16 Constitutional Commentary 581 (1999). Abstract

Restoring Positive Law and Economics: Introduction to Public Choice Theme Issue, 6 George Mason Law Review 709 (1998). Abstract

Mistretta versus Marbury: The Foundations of Judicial Review, 74 Texas Law Review 1281 (1996). Abstract

How Outcome Voting Promotes Principled Issue Identification: A Reply to Professor John Rogers and Others, 49 Vanderbilt Law Review 1045 (1996). Abstract

Standing Back from the Forest: Justiciability and Social Choice, 83 California Law Review 1309 (1995). Abstract

Poetic Law: A Statement on Intent, 48 Vanderbilt Law Review 195 (1995). Abstract

Standing and Social Choice: Historical Evidence, 144 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 309 (1995). Abstract

The Misguided Renaissance of Social Choice, 103 Yale Law Journal 1219 (1994). Abstract

The Public Choice Case Against the Item Veto, 49 Washington & Lee Law Review 385 (1992). Abstract