Amy Steigerwalt, Ph.D.

Georgia State University

City: Atlanta, Georgia

Country: United States

About Me:

I am a Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. I previously served as an APSA Congressional Fellow (2004-2005). I am also currently the Editor-in-Chief of Justice System Journal, and the state Director of the Georgia Legislative Internship Program. 

Research Interests

Judicial Politics

Gender and Politics

Legislative Politics

Judicial Confirmations

Judicial Behavior

Legislative Behavior

Gender And Politics

Race And Politics


U.S. Supreme Court

State Supreme Courts

Lower Federal Courts

Campaigns And Elections

Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

I study how governmental institutions work, and how structural design can influence the behavior of actors within these institutions. My work focuses primarily on US courts and the US Congress. I have written extensively on the politics of federal judicial selection, with emphasis on the Senate confirmation process. My work also examines the puzzle of unanimity on the US Supreme Court. Finally, my most recent book (Gendered Vulnerability: How Women Work Harder to Stay in Office, 2018, UMichigan Press) argues the electoral impediments facing female legislators results in them acting as more faithful representatives for their constituents once in office. 


Books Written:

(2018) Gendered Vulnerability: How Women Work Harder to Stay in Office, University of Michigan Press

We argue that women face a more perilous electoral environment than men. Women are aware of the electoral risks they face, and these electoral risks in turn shape their behavior once in elected office. We thus argue that female members of Congress engage in a more constituent-oriented legislative behavior than their male counterparts. We find notable gender differences for both members of the House and Senate across a multitude of Congressional activities, ranging from staffing decisions to trips home to committee memberships to bill sponsorship activity to roll call voting. Overall, women are more likely to substantively represent their constituents' interests than men, and these findings have important consequences for our understanding of the modern US Congress.

(2013) The Puzzle of Unanimity: Consensus on the United States Supreme Court, Stanford University Press

We offer a novel, comprehensive, and dynamic theory for understanding how justices of the United States are able to agree. We argue that previous examinations of judicial decision-making ignore unanimous decisions. By leaving unanimous opinions out of the equation, scholars miss a great deal of the influence of legal forces on judicial behavior. We posit and show that when the level of legal certainty as to the correct legal answer is higher, unanimity is more likely. Our findings demonstrate that the law exerts a constraining force on individual attitudes, and reinforces that the US SUpreme Court views part of its job as reinforcing and clarifying the rule of law.

(2011) Judging Law and Policy: Courts and Policymaking in the American Political System, Routledge

This book explores the role of courts in the American policymaking system. We argue that courts engage in a constant dialogue with the other two branches of government, and this dialogue influences both how policy is made and what that policy looks like. We examine a series of issue areas that touch upon the role of courts in both the federal and state systems, and address topics such as abortion, taxation, environmental policy and same-sex marriage.

(2010) Battle Over the Bench: Senators, Interest Groups and Lower Federal Court Confirmations, University of Virginia Press

Battle Over the Bench offers a novel theoretical framework for understanding why some nominations to the lower federal courts become controversial while others are quickly and easily confirmed to a lifetime appointment. Analogizing the confirmation process to a set of train tracks, I argue that at various "switch points" key actors in the confirmation process -- namely, senators and interest groups -- can cause a nomination to switch tracks and face more scrutiny. Importantly, this framework recognizes that many nominations are delayed or even denied confirmation due to unrelated political fights among senators, and between senators and the White House. Judicial nominations serve as useful bargaining chips, and the nominees themselves end up paying the price.