Jack Knight

Jack Knight

Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science

External Address: 
Duke Law School 210 Science Dr, Box 90362, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Law School Room 3010, Duke Box 90362, Durham, NC 27708-0204
(919) 613-8551
American Politics, Political Theory, Political Economy, Political Institutions

A renowned political scientist and legal theorist, Professor Knight's scholarly work focuses on modern social and political theory, law and legal theory, and political economy. He holds a joint appointment with Duke Law School and Duke's Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, where he teaches in the Politics, Philosophy and Economics Program. At the Law School, he teaches courses on social scientific approaches to law and courts, as well as courses on the political economy of social institutions. Professor Knight's research focuses on the rules and norms that organize human activities in nations. In addition to study of the motivations and decisions of judges, he has examined the effects of the norm of extensive prior judicial experience as a prerequisite for service on the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as several other aspects of how courts make decisions and how judges choose their positions in opinions. Professor Knight is the author of several books: Institutions and Social Conflict(Cambridge University Press, 1992), Explaining Social Institutions (with Itai Sened) (The University of Michigan Press, 1995), and The Choices Justices Make(with Lee Epstein) (Congressional Quarterly Press, 1997), which won the American Political Science Association's C. Herman Prichett Award for the best book published on law and courts. He co-edited Courts, Judges and Politics(McGraw-Hill, 6th Edition, 2005) and has published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes on such topics as democratic theory, the rule of law, judicial decision-making, and theories of institutional emergence and change. Prior to joining Duke Law in 2008, Professor Knight was the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government at Washington University of St. Louis, where he served as chair of the Department of Political Science and was a fellow of the university's Center for Political Economy. He also has taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan and was an attorney with the Peninsula Legal Aid Center in Hampton, Va. He has served as a visiting professor at the International Center for Business and Politics of the Copenhagen Business School and a visiting scholar with the Russell Sage Foundation and the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany. Professor Knight holds a bachelor's degree and JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MA and a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago. View Professor Knight's profile at the Political Science Department


  • Ph.D., University of Chicago 1989
  • M.A., University of Chicago 1980
  • J.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1977
  • B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1974

Knight, J., and I. Sened. Explaining Social Institutions. University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Knight, J. Institutions and Social Conflict. Cambridge University Press, 1992.


Knight, J. “Book Review: Law and Inflation by Keith Rosenn.” Ethics, vol. 93, 1983, pp. 648–648.

Knight, J. “Book Review: The Limits of Capital by David Harvey.” Ethics, vol. 94, 1983, pp. 163–163.


Knight, J. “Commentary: The mutual engagement of political theory and empirical research.” The Evolution of Political Knowledge: Theory and Inquiry in American Politics, 2004, pp. 93–97.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Institutionalizing Constitutional Democracy: A Strategic Analysis of the Role of the Courts.” Politics From Anarchy to Democracy, Stanford University Press, 2004.

Knight, J., et al. “Constitutional Interpretation From a Strategic Perspective.” Making Policy, Making Law: An Inter-Branch Perspective, Georgetown University Press, 2004.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Courts and Judges.” Blackwell Companion to Law and Society, edited by A. Serat, Blackwell, 2004.

Epstein, L., and J. Knight. “Walter F. Murphy: The interactive nature of judicial decision making.” The Pioneers of Judicial Behavior, 2003, pp. 197–227.

Knight, J. “The Mutual Engagement of Political Theory and Empirical Research.” Political Knowledge and Public Interest, University of Ohio Press, 2003.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “The Strategic John Marshall (and Thomas Jefferson).” Marbury v. Madison: Document and Commentary, edited by M. Graber and M. Perhac, CQ Press, 2002.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Walter Murphy.” The Pioneers of Judicial Behavior, edited by N. Maveety, University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Knight, J., et al. “Selecting Selections Systems.” Judicial Independence at the Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by S. Burbank and B. Friedman, 2002, pp. 191–226.

Knight, J. “Institutionalizing Constitutional Interpretation.” Constitutional Cultural and Democratic Rule, edited by J. Ferejohn et al., Cambridge University Press, 2001.


Knight, J., and J. Johnson. “Assessing the boundaries of radical democracy.” Gestion Y Politica Publica, vol. 14, no. 3, Jan. 2005, pp. 497–526.

Knight, J., and J. Johnson. “Evaluacion de los Limites de la Democracia Radical.” Gestion Y Politicia Publica, vol. 14, 2005, pp. 497–526.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Building a Bridge from Both Sides of the River: Law and Society and Rational Choice.” Law and Society Review, vol. 38, no. 2, 2004, pp. 207–12.

Epstein, L., et al. “The norm of prior judicial experience and its consequences for career diversity on the U.S. Supreme Court.” California Law Review, vol. 91, no. 4, July 2003, pp. 903–65.

Knight, J., and H. Farrell. “Trust, Institutions and Institutional Evolution: Industrial Districts and the Social Capital Hypothesis.” Politics & Society, vol. 31, no. 4, 2003.

Knight, J., et al. “The Political (Science) Context of Judging.” St. Louis University Law Journal, vol. 47, no. 3, 2003, pp. 783–817.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Constitutional Borrowing and Nonborrowing.” I Con, International Journal of Constitutional Law, vol. 1, no. 2, 2003, pp. 196–223.

Knight, J. “A Pragmatist Approach to the Proper Scope of Government.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, vol. 157, no. 1, 2001, pp. 28–48.

Knight, J., et al. “The Role of Constitutional Courts in the Establishment and Maintainence of Democratic Systems of Government.” Law and Society Review, vol. 35, 2001, pp. 117–64.

Knight, J., et al. “Comparing Judicial Selection Systems.” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, vol. 10, 2001, pp. 7–36.