Research Agenda

My central research agenda is situated at the intersection of law and politics, and explores crucial venues of political contestation that initially appear to involve technical legal issues but are actually rich areas of American political development. My work on state attorneys general, for example, examines how these actors have pursued legal changes that initially seem divorced from politics – such using fraud prosecutions to redefine the meaning of “average wholesale prices” concerning government drug reimbursements or “New Source Review” in federal environmental statutes – but are actually major venues of political conflict with billions of dollars and important constitutional principles at stake.

Likewise, my new project examines how elites in the legal profession have contributed to contemporary American political development through legalistic channels — for example, by seeking to change lawyer ethics rules and advocating for changes in plaintiffs’ attorneys fees in federal statutory litigation. While initially appearing to concern issues of “law” and not “politics,” these changes involve very real political conflicts with important consequences for American politics.

The broader observation guiding my research trajectory is that in an era in which typical policymaking venues often seem dysfunctional – and institutions with less of a connection to democratic politics, such as courts and bureaucracies, have picked up the policymaking slack – attention to alternative venues of political change become all the more important. In short, what occurs in places such as litigation settlement negotiating rooms and the American Bar Association annual meeting is important not only for narrow subsets of lawyers but to the broader polity as well.


Nolette, Paul. 2015. Federalism on Trial: State Attorneys General and National Policymaking in Contemporary America (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas) (forthcoming).


Nolette, Paul. 2014. “Law Enforcement as Legal Mobilization: Reforming the Pharmaceutical Industry through Government Litigation.” Law & Social Inquiry (forthcoming).

Nolette, Paul. 2014. “State Litigation during the Obama Administration: Diverging Agendas in an Era of Polarized Politics.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 44(3): 451-474.

Nolette, Paul. 2013. “Gubernatorial Power and the Nationalization of State Politics.” Tulsa Law Review 49(2): 279-289 (review essay).

Nolette, Paul. 2012. “Litigating the Public Interest in the Gilded Age: Common Law Business Regulation by Nineteenth-Century State Attorneys General.” Polity 44(3): 373-399.

Nolette, Paul. 2003. “Lessons Learned From South Africa’s Constitutional Court: Towards a Third Way of Judicial Enforcement of Socio-Economic Rights.” Michigan State Journal of International Law 12(1): 91-119.

Conahan, Joseph, Janine Loaisiga Ivanova, Paul Nolette, and Aram Young. 2003. “Eighteenth Survey of White Collar Crime: Securities Fraud.” American Criminal Law Review 40(2): 1041-1107.

Works in Progress

“Determinants of the Global Diffusion of Constitutional Courts,” with Dongwook Kim (article manuscript in progress)

American Lawyers and the Making of the Modern State (early-stage work in progress)