David S. Law

  • E. James Kelly, Jr., Class of 1965 Research Professor of Law

David Law is an internationally recognized expert in the comparative study of public law and courts, a pioneer in the application of empirical social science methods to the study of legal texts, and one of the most cited law and social science scholars in the country. His scholarship combines qualitative fieldwork on foreign judicial and constitutional systems, quantitative analysis of constitutions and treaties, and regional expertise on Asia.

Law’s work has been featured in a variety of media around the world, including the New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, the Globe and Mail (Canada), the Asahi Shimbun (Japan) and the Chosun Ilbo (Korea), and has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Romanian. He is the author of “The Japanese Supreme Court and Judicial Review,” published in Japanese by Gendaijinbunsha, the co-author (with Mila Versteeg) of “Constituciones Aparentes,” published in Spanish by Universidad Externado de Colombia, and the editor of “Constitutionalism in Context,” forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Other projects include “The Oxford Handbook of Constitutional Law in Asia” (for Oxford University Press), “Research Methods in Constitutional Law: A Handbook” (for Edward Elgar Publishing) and a new book series titled “Judicial Systems of the World” for Oxford University Press. 

Before joining the Virginia faculty, Law held the Sir Y.K. Pao Chair in Public Law at the University of Hong Kong and served on the faculties of the University of California, Irvine and Washington University in St. Louis, where he was the Charles Nagel Chair of Constitutional Law and Political Science. He has also taught at the University of California, San Diego (in the political science department); the University of San Diego; Keio University (as a Hitachi Fellow); National Taiwan University (as a Fulbright Scholar); Seoul National University; Universidad Externado de Colombia; Georgetown University Law Center; and Princeton University (as the Martin and Kathleen Crane Fellow in Law and Public Affairs). He has served as a U.N. consultant on legal and political reform in Yemen and provided training sponsored by the U.S. State Department to Burmese lawmakers on constitutional reform.

Law earned his B.A. in public policy and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University, his J.D. from Harvard Law School, and his B.C.L. in European and Comparative Law from the University of Oxford. He clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and practiced law at Munger Tolles and Olson in Los Angeles before entering academia. Born and raised in western Canada, he is a native Mandarin speaker.


  • Ph.D.
    Stanford University
  • B.C.L. in European and Comparative Law
    University of Oxford, Magdalen College
  • M.A.
    Stanford University
  • J.D.
    Harvard Law School
  • B.A.
    Stanford University


Constitutionalism in Context (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2021).

The Oxford Handbook of Constitutional Law in Asia (co-edited with Holning Lau and Alex Schwartz) (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2022).

Research Methods in Constitutional Law: A Handbook (co-edited with Malcolm Langford) (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming).

Constituciones aparentes (with Mila Versteeg; Maria José Viana trans.) (Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia, 2018) (2nd printing) (reviewed in Asuntos Legales).

Nihon no saikosai wo kaibou suru [The Japanese Supreme Court and Judicial Review] (Shin-ichi Nishikawa trans.) (Tokyo: Gendaijinbunsha, 2013) (2nd printing) (reviewed in the Asahi Shimbun).

Articles and Essays:

“Judicial Review of Constitutional Amendments: Taiwan” (with Hsiang-Yang Hsieh), in Constitutionalism in Context (David S. Law ed., CUP forthcoming 2021).

“Transnational Judicial Communication: The European Union” (with Elaine Mak), in Constitutionalism in Context (David S. Law ed., CUP forthcoming 2021).

“Islamic Constitutionalism: Iran” (with Mirjam Künkler), in Constitutionalism in Context (David S. Law ed., CUP forthcoming 2021).

“Pedagogy and Conceptualization of the Field,” in Constitutionalism in Context (David S. Law ed., CUP forthcoming 2021).

“Post-Liberal Constitutionalism and the Right to Effective Government,” in Vicki Jackson and Yasmin Dawood eds. Constitutionalism and a Right to Effective Government (CUP forthcoming).

“The Computational Turn in Legal Research,” in Research Methods in Constitutional Law: A Handbook (David S. Law and Malcolm Langford eds., Edward Elgar forthcoming 2021).

“Constitutional Adjudication in Comparative Perspective” (with Yeong-Chin Su and Aharon Barak), in Constitutional Interpretation: Theory and Practice, Vol. 10 (Yen-Tu Su ed., Academia Sinica 2020).

“Constitutional Dialects: The Language of Transnational Legal Orders,” in Greg Shaffer et al. eds. Constitution-Making and Transnational Legal Order (CUP 2019).

“Constitutional Amendments Versus Constitutional Replacements: An Empirical Perspective” (with Ryan Whalen), in Routledge Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Change (Xenophon Contiades and Alkemene Fotiadou eds., Routledge 2019).

“Isolation Versus Globalization: The Dawn of Legal Education in Bhutan,” 9 Yonsei L. J. 1 (2018). Reprinted in The Globalization of Legal Education (Bryant Garth et al. eds., CUP forthcoming).

“Constitutional Dissonance in China” (with Wen-Chen Chang), in Comparative Constitutional Theory (Gary Jacobsohn and Miguel Schor eds., Edward Elgar 2018).

 “The Global Language of Human Rights: A Computational Linguistic Analysis,” 12 Law & Ethics of Human Rights 111 (2018) (peer-reviewed).

“Constitutional Inertia and Regime Pluralism in Asia” (with Chien-Chih Lin), in Mark Graber, Sanford Levinson and Mark Tushnet eds. Constitutional Democracy in Crisis? (OUP 2018).

“Imposed Constitutions and Romantic Constitutions,” in Xenophon Contiades et al. eds. The Law and Legitimacy of Imposed Constitutions (Routledge 2018).

“Alternatives to Liberal Constitutional Democracy,” 76 Md. L. Rev. 223 (2017) (symposium). Translated into Spanish and reprinted in 51 Revista Derecho y Sociedad 223 (2018).

“Constitutional Archetypes,” 95 Tex. L. Rev. 153 (2016).

“Proportionality Review of Administrative Action in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China” (with Cheng-Yi Huang), in Francesca Bignami and David Zaring eds. Handbook on Comparative Law and Regulation ( Edward Elgar 2016).

“Constitutional Drafting in Latin America: A Quantitative Perspective” (with Tom Ginsburg), in Daniel Bonilla and Colin Crawford eds., Constitutionalism in the Americas (Edward Elgar 2018). Translated into Spanish and published in El Constitucionalismo en el Continente Americano (Daniel Bonilla ed., Siglo del Hombre Editores, 2016).

 “Judicial Comparativism and Judicial Diplomacy,”163 U. Pa. L. Rev. 927 (2015).

“Constitutional Convergence and Comparative Competency: A Reply to Professors Jackson and Krotoszynski,” 66 Ala. L. Rev. 145 (2014).

“Constitutional Variation Among Strains of Authoritarianism” (with Mila Versteeg), in Tom Ginsburg and Alberto Simpser eds., Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes ( CUP 2014).

“Comparative Constitutional Law in Action: Japan Versus Korea,” in The Global Implications of Korean Law (Korean Legislation Research Institute 2014).

“Sham Constitutions” (with Mila Versteeg), 101 Cal. L. Rev. 863 (2013). Reprinted in Mark Tushnet ed., Comparative Constitutional Law (Edward Elgar 2018).

“The Myth of the Imposed Constitution,” in Denis Galligan and Mila Versteeg eds., Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions (CUP 2013).Translated into Chinese (Yilin Press 2016).

“The Declining Influence of the United States Constitution” (with Mila Versteeg), 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 762 (2012). Featured in “‘We the People’ Loses Followers,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 2012, at A1. Revised and abridged version entitled “Is the Influence of the U.S. Constitution Declining?” forthcoming in Modern Constitutions (Rogers Smith and Rick Beeman eds., University of Pennsylvania Press 2020).

“Debating the Declining Influence of the United States Constitution: A Response to Professors Choudhry, Jackson, and Melkinsburg” (with Mila Versteeg), 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. Online 39 (2012).

“How to Rig the Federal Courts,” 99 Geo. L. J. 779 (2011).

“The Evolution and Ideology of Global Constitutionalism” (with Mila Versteeg), 99 Cal. L. Rev. 1163 (2011). Translated into Chinese and reprinted in Tsinghua Rule of Law Forum, Jan. 2014, at 273–370.

“Why Has Judicial Review Failed in Japan?,” 88 Wash. U. L. Rev. 1425 (2011). Translated into Japanese and reprinted in Seikei-Ronso [The Review of Economics and Political Science], Vol. 81, No. 1(2) (Shin-ichi Nishikawa trans., 2012).

“Judicial Independence,” in 5 International Encyclopedia of Political Science 1369 (Bertrand Badie et al. eds., Sage 2011). Translated into Romanian and reprinted in Revista Forumul Judecătorilor, No. 4, at 37 (2011).

“Introduction: Decision Making on the Japanese Supreme Court,” 88 Wash. U. L. Rev. 1365 (2011) (symposium introductory essay).

“The Limits of Global Judicial Dialogue” (with Wen-Chen Chang), 86 Wash. L. Rev. 523 (2011) (symposium).

“Law Versus Ideology: The Supreme Court and the Use of Legislative History” (with David Zaring), 51 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1653 (2010).

“Constitutions,” in The Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research (Peter Cane and Herbert M. Kritzer eds., OUP 2010). Foreword to Hiroshi Itoh, The Supreme Court and Benign Elite Democracy in Japan (Ashgate 2010).

“A Theory of Judicial Power and Judicial Review,” 97 Geo. L. J. 723 (2009).

“The Anatomy of a Conservative Court: Judicial Review in Japan,” 87 Tex. L. Rev. 1545 (2009). Translated into Japanese and reprinted in Seikei-Ronso [The Review of Economics and Political Science], Vol. 79, No. 1(2) (Shin-ichi Nishikawa trans., 2010). Reprinted in Public Law in East Asia (Albert H.Y. Chen and Tom Ginsburg eds., Ashgate 2013).

 “What Is Judicial Ideology, and How Should We Measure It?” (with Joshua B. Fischman), 29 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol'y 133 (2009) (symposium).

“Globalization and the Future of Constitutional Rights,” 102 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1277 (2008).

“There Is Nothing Pragmatic About Originalism” (with David McGowan), 102 Nw. U. L. R. Colloquy 86 (2007).

“The Paradox of Omnipotence: Courts, Constitutions, and Commitments,” 40 Ga. L. Rev. 407 (2006).

“Judicial Selection, Appointments Gridlock, and the Nuclear Option” (with Lawrence B. Solum), 15 J. Contemp. Legal Issues 51 (2006) (symposium).

“Introduction: Positive Political Theory and the Law,” 15 J. Contemp. Legal Issues 1 (2006) (symposium introductory essay).

“Judicial Ideology and the Decision to Publish: Voting and Publication Patterns in Ninth Circuit Asylum Cases,” 89 Judicature 212 (2006).

“Generic Constitutional Law,” 89 Minn. L. Rev. 652 (2005).

“Strategic Judicial Lawmaking: Ideology, Publication, and Asylum Law in the Ninth Circuit,”73 U. Cin. L. Rev. 817 (2005). Reprinted in 26 Immigration & Nationality Law Review 275 (2006).

“Appointing Federal Judges: The President, the Senate, and the Prisoner's Dilemma,” 26 Cardozo L. Rev. 479 (2005).

“Why Nuclear Disarmament May Be Easier to Achieve Than an End to Partisan Conflict Over Judicial Appointments” (with Sanford Levinson), 39 U. Rich. L. Rev. 923 (2005).

Note, “Executive Revision of Judicial Decisions,” 109 Harv. L. Rev. 2020 (1996). Cited in Hart and Wechsler's The Federal Courts and the Federal System 98 (5th ed. 2003).

The Supreme Court, 1994 Term – Leading Cases – Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton,109 Harv. L. Rev. 111, 220-29 (1995).

Book Note, “And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor,” 108 Harv. L. Rev. 489 (1994) (reviewing C. Edwin Baker, Advertising and a Democratic Press).

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Comparative Constitutional Law
Comparative Judicial Politics
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