Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Mark Tushnet

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

“Five Questions with … ” is a brand new feature at I-CONnect. We will periodically invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.

Our inaugural edition of “Five Questions with … ” features Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Professor Tushnet, who graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School and served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, specializes in constitutional law and theory, including comparative constitutional law. His research includes studies examining (skeptically) the practice of judicial review in the United States and around the world. He also writes in the area of legal and particularly constitutional history, with works on the development of civil rights law in the United States and (currently) a long-term project on the history of the Supreme Court in the 1930s.


1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.

Two projects: A study of “institutions protecting democracy” (“IPDs”) such as electoral commissions, anticorruption agencies, and many more–attempting to develop a theory about the structure of such institutions in terms of independence/accountability, expertise, and more. Also, an attempt to develop a theory of “illiberal constitutionalism” in which the term “constitutionalism” is taken seriously (so that constitutionalism is not [necessarily] liberal).

2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?

Except when on a (unfortunately, rare) vacation or while attending academic conferences, I try to do some writing every day (alas, including weekends). My target is 5-7 double-spaced pages a day, which is the point where I get tired. For a long time I did my writing only in my office, reserving time at home for reading–often professional or background reading for my research–but not for writing. Now that I’m dividing my time between Cambridge and Washington, I do write at home.

3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new? 

I do try to keep up with what younger scholars are writing, both to spot emerging talent and to learn where the field is heading.

4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a law student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?

Jan Deutsch, “Precedent and Adjudication,” 83 Yale Law Journal 1553 (1974) and Karl Llewellyn, The Common Law Tradition: Deciding Appeals (neither quite “as a law student,” but just after I started teaching).

5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?

The ones I’m currently interested in! (Although I have to say that the importance of the theory of constitutional amendments snuck up on me.)


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