Kevin Cope

  • Associate Professor of Law
  • Associate Professor of Law and Public Policy, Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
  • Affiliated Faculty, Department of Politics

Kevin Cope is an associate professor of law at the Law School, an associate professor of law and public policy at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and faculty affiliate at the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics.

Cope’s research focuses on the measurement of legal and political phenomena. Substantively, he is most interested in the law and politics of international institutions, migration, and relationships between domestic institutional structure and international behavior. 

Cope’s work is published or forthcoming in journals such as the Michigan Law Review, Political Science Research and Methods, American Journal of International Law, Law and Contemporary Problems and Virginia Journal of International Law, and in books published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and others. His short articles have appeared in The Atlantic, FiveThirtyEight, The Washington Post Monkey Cage and Slate. Cope has been interviewed about his research on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and on local radio stations.

Cope is currently pursuing a series of research initiatives related to the decision-making and attitudes of legal and political actors. The first initiative investigates how legal rules affect citizens’ attitudes toward domestic immigration policies. In a second initiative on multilateral treaty-making, his co-author and he apply a theoretical model to negotiating data collected from the archived records of the last few decades’ most significant conventions. The authors hope the methods will eventually assist international officials in designing more effective treaty-making processes across issue areas. A third initiative develops the first judicial ideology measure covering nearly the entire federal judiciary.

Before coming to the Law School, Cope served as a federal judicial clerk for judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Northern District of Ohio and the Court of Federal Claims. He also practiced government enforcement litigation law in Washington, D.C., with Skadden, Arps, where he handled matters involving treaties, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, immigration law, the World Bank and the U.S. Constitution. In law school, he served as an editor of the Northwestern University Law Review.


  • Ph.D.
    University of Michigan
  • LL.M.
    Georgetown University Law Center
  • J.D.
    Northwestern University School of Law
  • B.A.
    Ohio State University


Can Rights Discourse Diminish Support for Displaced Persons? (with Shiri Krebs), Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies (2022).
Migrant-Family Separation and the Diverging Normative Force of Higher-Order Laws (with Charles Crabtree), Journal of Legal Studies (2022).
Vaccine Passports as a Constitutional Right (with Ilya Somin & Alexander Stremitzer), Arizona State Law Journal, 505-572 (2022).

Works in Progress

An Expert-Sourced Measure of Judicial Ideology (with Charles Crabtree) (2021).
Estimating State Interest From Treaty Negotiations (with Kevin McAlister & James D. Morrow).
The Rhetoric of Immigration Enforcement (with Loren Collingwood & Charles Crabtree).

Book Chapters

National Legislatures: The Foundations of Comparative International Law (with Hooman Movassagh), in Comparative International Law, Oxford University Press, 271-291 (2018).
Treaty Law and National Legislative Politics, in Research Handbook on the Politics of International Law, Edward Elgar, 116-148 (2017).
Constitutions (with Mila Versteeg), in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier, 710-715 (2 ed. 2015).
Reconceptualizing Recognition Uniformity, in Foreign Court Judgments and the U.S. Legal System , Brill Nijhoff, 166-178 (2014).
South Sudan’s Dualistic Constitution, in The Social & Political Foundations of Constitutions , Cambridge University Press, 295-321 (2013).

Articles & Reviews

The Global Evolution of Foreign Relations Law (with Pierre-Hugues Verdier & Mila Versteeg), American Journal of International Law 1-67 (2021).
The Limits of Information Revelation in Multilateral Negotiations: A Theory of Treatymaking (with James Morrow), Journal of Theoretical Politics 1-31 (2021).
Knowing the Law (with Charles Crabtree), The University of Chicago Law Review Online (2021).
A Nationalist Backlash to International Refugee Law: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Turkey  (with Charles Crabtree), 17 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 752-788 (2020).
Patterns of Disagreement in Indicators of State Repression (with Charles Crabtree & Christopher J. Fariss), 8 Political Science Research & Methods 178-187 (2020).
Empirical Studies of Human Rights Law (with Cosette D. Creamer & Mila Versteeg), 15 Annual Review of Law & Social Science 155-182 (2019).
Beyond Physical Integrity (with Charles Crabtree & Yonatan Lupu), 81 Law & Contemporary Problems 185-195 (2018).
Disaggregating the Human Rights Treaty Regime (with Cosette D. Creamer), 56 Virginia Journal of International Law 459-480 (2016).
Review of The Interpretation of International Law by Domestic Courts (with Mila Versteeg) (reviewing Helmut Philipp Aust & Georg Nolte, The Interpretation of International Law by Domestic Courts: Uniformity, Diversity Convergence) 111 American Journal of International Law 538-544 (2016).
Congress’s International Legal Discourse, 113 Michigan Law Review 1115-1174 (2015).
Lost in Translation: The Accidental Origins of Bond v. United States, 112 Michigan Law Review First Impressions 133-141 (2013).
The Intermestic Constitution: Lessons from the World's Newest Nation, 53 Virginia Journal of International Law 667-724 (2013).

Op-Eds, Blogs, Shorter Works

Rethinking Responsibility for Refugees, JOTWELL (July 1, 2021).
The Constitution Requires the U.S. to Offer Vaccine Passports (with Alexander Stremitzer), (May 4, 2021).
Red and Blue America Agree That Now Is the Time to Violate the Constitution (with Adam Chilton, Charles Crabtree & Mila Versteeg), The Atlantic (March 25, 2020).
It’s Hard to Find a Federal Judge More Conservative than Brett Kavanaugh (with Joshua Fischman), Washington Post (September 5, 2018).
For a Trump Nominee, Neil Gorsuch’s Record Is Surprisingly Moderate on Immigration (with Joshua Fischman), FiveThirtyEight (March 27, 2017).

Current Courses

All Courses

Constitutional Law and Economics
Immigration Law
The Law of Treaties
Federal Judicial Process
Appellate Litigation Clinic




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