Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein

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Cass R. Sunstein is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 legal
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law
Constitutional law
Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary....

, administrative law
Administrative law
Administrative law is the body of law that governs the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rulemaking, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law...

, environmental law
Environmental law
Environmental law is a complex and interlocking body of treaties, conventions, statutes, regulations, and common law that operates to regulate the interaction of humanity and the natural environment, toward the purpose of reducing the impacts of human activity...

, and law and behavioral economics, who currently is the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is an office of the United States Government that Congress established in the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act. OIRA is located within the Office of Management and Budget, which is an agency within the Executive Office of the President...

 in the Obama administration. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School
University of Chicago Law School
The University of Chicago Law School was founded in 1902 as the graduate school of law at the University of Chicago and is among the most prestigious and selective law schools in the world. The U.S. News & World Report currently ranks it fifth among U.S...

, where he continues to teach as the Harry Kalven
Harry Kalven
Harry Kalven, Jr. was an American jurist, regarded as one of the preeminent legal scholars of the 20th century. He was the Harry A. Bigelow Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. Kalven coauthored, with Charles O...

 Visiting Professor. Sunstein is currently Professor of Law at Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

, where he is on leave while working in the Obama administration.

Early life and education



Sunstein was born on September 21, 1954 into a Jewish-American family. He graduated in 1972 from the Middlesex School
Middlesex School
Middlesex School is an independent secondary school for grades 9 - 12 located in Concord, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1901 by a Roxbury Latin School alumnus, Frederick Winsor, who headed the school until 1937. Winsor set up a National Scholarship Program for the school, the first of its kind...

 in Concord, Massachusetts
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

. He earned an A.B.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in 1975 from Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

, where he was a member of the varsity
Varsity team
In the United States and Canada, varsity sports teams are the principal athletic teams representing a college, university, high school or other secondary school. Such teams compete against the principal athletic teams at other colleges/universities, or in the case of secondary schools, against...

 squash
Squash (sport)
Squash is a high-speed racquet sport played by two players in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball...

 team and the Harvard Lampoon
Harvard Lampoon
The Harvard Lampoon is an undergraduate humor publication founded in 1876 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.-Overview:Published since 1876, The Harvard Lampoon is the world's longest continually published humor magazine. It is also the second longest-running English-language humor...

. In 1978, Sunstein received a J.D.
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 magna cum laude
Latin honors
Latin honors are Latin phrases used to indicate the level of academic distinction with which an academic degree was earned. This system is primarily used in the United States, Canada, and in many countries of continental Europe, though some institutions also use the English translation of these...

from Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

, where he was executive editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and part of a winning team of the Ames Moot Court Competition
Ames Moot Court Competition
The Ames Moot Court Competition is the annual upper level moot court competition at Harvard Law School. It is designed and administered by the Board of Student Advisers and has been in existence since 1911.-Format and History:...

. He served as a law clerk
Law clerk
A law clerk or a judicial clerk is a person who provides assistance to a judge in researching issues before the court and in writing opinions. Law clerks are not court clerks or courtroom deputies, who are administrative staff for the court. Most law clerks are recent law school graduates who...

 first for Justice Benjamin Kaplan
Benjamin Kaplan
Benjamin Kaplan was an American copyright scholar and jurist. He was also notable as "one of the principal architects" of the Nuremberg trials....

 of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The SJC has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Western Hemisphere.-History:...

 (1978–1979) and later for Justice
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

 Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991...

 of the United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 (1979–1980).

Career


Sunstein worked in the Office of Legal Counsel
Office of Legal Counsel
The Office of Legal Counsel is an office in the United States Department of Justice that assists the Attorney General in his function as legal adviser to the President and all executive branch agencies.-History:...

 in the Justice Department as an attorney-advisor (1980–1981) and then took a job as an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School
University of Chicago Law School
The University of Chicago Law School was founded in 1902 as the graduate school of law at the University of Chicago and is among the most prestigious and selective law schools in the world. The U.S. News & World Report currently ranks it fifth among U.S...

 (1981–1983), where he also became an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science (1983–1985). In 1985, Sunstein was made a full professor of both political science and law; in 1988, he was named the Karl N. Llewellyn
Karl N. Llewellyn
Karl Nickerson Llewellyn was a prominent American jurisprudential scholar associated with the school of legal realism. The Journal of Legal Studies has identified Llewellyn as one of the twenty most cited American legal scholars of the 20th century.-Biography:He was born on May 22, 1893 in Seattle...

 Professor of Jurisprudence in the Law School and Department of Political Science. The university honored him in 1993 with its "distinguished service" accolade, permanently changing his title to Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence in the Law School and Department of Political Science.

Sunstein was the Samuel Rubin Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia Law School
Columbia Law School
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, is one of the oldest and most prestigious law schools in the United States. A member of the Ivy League, Columbia Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Columbia University in New York City. It offers the J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D. degrees in...

 in the fall of 1986 and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

 in the spring 1987, winter 2005, and spring 2007 terms. He teaches courses in constitutional law
United States constitutional law
United States constitutional law is the body of law governing the interpretation and implementation of the United States Constitution.- Introduction :United States constitutional law defines the scope and application of the terms of the Constitution...

, administrative law
Administrative law
Administrative law is the body of law that governs the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rulemaking, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law...

, and environmental law
Environmental law
Environmental law is a complex and interlocking body of treaties, conventions, statutes, regulations, and common law that operates to regulate the interaction of humanity and the natural environment, toward the purpose of reducing the impacts of human activity...

, as well as the required first-year course "Elements of the Law", which is an introduction to legal reasoning, legal theory
Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

, and the interdisciplinary study of law, including law and economics
Law and economics
The economic analysis of law is an analysis of law applying methods of economics. Economic concepts are used to explain the effects of laws, to assess which legal rules are economically efficient, and to predict which legal rules will be promulgated.-Relationship to other disciplines and...

. In the fall of 2008 he joined the faculty of Harvard Law School and began serving as the director of its Program on Risk Regulation:

The Program on Risk Regulation will focus on how law and policy deal with the central hazards of the 21st century. Anticipated areas of study include terrorism, climate change, occupational safety, infectious diseases, natural disasters, and other low-probability, high-consequence events. Sunstein plans to rely on significant student involvement in the work of this new program.


On January 7, 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sunstein would be named to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is an office of the United States Government that Congress established in the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act. OIRA is located within the Office of Management and Budget, which is an agency within the Executive Office of the President...

 (OIRA). That news generated controversy among progressive legal scholars and environmentalists. Sunstein's confirmation was long blocked because of controversy over allegations about his political and academic views. On September 9, 2009, the Senate voted for cloture on Sunstein's nomination as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget. The motion passed in a 63–35 vote. The Senate confirmed Sunstein on September 10, 2009 in a 57–40 vote.

In his research on risk regulation, Sunstein is known for developing, together with Timur Kuran
Timur Kuran
Timur Kuran is a Turkish economist, Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Gorter Family Professor in Islamic Studies at Duke University...

, the concept of availability cascade
Availability cascade
An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing cycle that explains the development of certain kinds of collective beliefs. A novel idea or insight, usually one that seems to explain a complex process in a simple or straightforward manner, gains rapid currency in the popular discourse by its very...

s, wherein popular discussion of an idea is self-feeding and causes individuals to overweight its importance.

Sunstein's books include After the Rights Revolution (1990), The Partial Constitution (1993), Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech (1993), Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict (1996), Free Markets and Social Justice (1997), One Case at a Time (1999), Risk and Reason (2002), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005), Radicals in Robes: Why Extreme Right-Wing Courts Are Wrong for America (2005), Are Judges Political? An Empirical Analysis of the Federal Judiciary (2005), Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge (2006), and, co-authored with Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler
Richard H. Thaler is an American economist and the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business...

, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008).

Sunstein's 2006 book, Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, explores methods for aggregating information; it contains discussions of prediction market
Prediction market
Prediction markets are speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions...

s, open-source software
Open-source software
Open-source software is computer software that is available in source code form: the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software license that permits users to study, change, improve and at times also to distribute the software.Open...

, and wiki
Wiki
A wiki is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor. Wikis are typically powered by wiki software and are often used collaboratively by multiple users. Examples include...

s. Sunstein's 2004 book, The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More than Ever, advocates the Second Bill of Rights
Second Bill of Rights
The Second Bill of Rights was a list of rights proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the then President of the United States, during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944. In his address Roosevelt suggested that the nation had come to recognize, and should now implement, a second "bill...

 proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

. Among these rights are a right to an education, a right to a home, a right to health care, and a right to protection against monopolies; Sunstein argues that the Second Bill of Rights has had a large international impact and should be revived in the United States. His 2001 book, Republic.com, argued that the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 may weaken democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 because it allows citizens to isolate themselves within groups that share their own views and experiences, and thus cut themselves off from any information that might challenge their beliefs, a phenomenon known as cyberbalkanization
Cyberbalkanization
Cyberbalkanization refers to the division of the world wide web into sub-groups with specific interests, to the extent that a sub-group's members almost always use the web to communicate or read material that is only of interest to the rest of the sub-group...

.

Sunstein co-authored Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale University Press, 2008) with economist Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler
Richard H. Thaler is an American economist and the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business...

 of the University of Chicago. Nudge discusses how public and private organizations can help people make better choices in their daily lives. Thaler and Sunstein argue that

People often make poor choices – and look back at them with bafflement! We do this because as human beings, we all are susceptible to a wide array of routine biases that can lead to an equally wide array of embarrassing blunders in education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, happiness, and even the planet itself.


The ideas in the book proved popular with politicians such as U.S. President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

, British Prime Minister David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

, and the British Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 in general. The "Nudge" idea has been criticised. Dr Tammy Boyce, from public health foundation The King's Fund, has said:
We need to move away from short-term, politically motivated initiatives such as the 'nudging people' idea, which are not based on any good evidence and don't help people make long-term behaviour changes.


Sunstein is a contributing editor to The New Republic
The New Republic
The magazine has also published two articles concerning income inequality, largely criticizing conservative economists for their attempts to deny the existence or negative effect increasing income inequality is having on the United States...

and The American Prospect
The American Prospect
The American Prospect is a monthly American political magazine dedicated to American liberalism. Based in Washington, DC, The American Prospect is a journal "of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics" which focuses on United States politics...

and is a frequent witness before congressional committee
United States Congressional committee
A congressional committee is a legislative sub-organization in the United States Congress that handles a specific duty . Committee membership enables members to develop specialized knowledge of the matters under their jurisdiction...

s. He played an active role in opposing the impeachment of Bill Clinton
Impeachment of Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton, President of the United States, was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice on December 19, 1998, but acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. Two other impeachment articles, a second perjury charge and a charge of abuse of...

 in 1998.

In recent years, Sunstein has been a guest writer on The Volokh Conspiracy
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Volokh Conspiracy is a blog which mostly covers United States legal and political issues, generally from a libertarian or conservative perspective. One of the most widely read legal blogs in the United States, The Volokh Conspiracy has more than one million page views each month. This group...

blog as well as the blogs of law professors Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence "Larry" Lessig is an American academic and political activist. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications, and he has called for state-based activism to promote substantive...

 (Harvard
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

) and Jack Balkin
Jack Balkin
Jack M. Balkin is an American legal scholar. He is the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School...

 (Yale
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

). He is considered so prolific a writer that in 2007, an article in the legal publication The Green Bag
The Green Bag
The Green Bag: An Entertaining Journal of Law is a legal journal supported in part by George Mason University School of Law and is dedicated to publishing "good writing" about the law. Founded in 1997 by three former-classmates of the University of Chicago Law School , The Green Bag is published...

coined the concept of a "Sunstein number" reflecting degrees of separation between various legal authors and Sunstein, paralleling the Erdős number
Erdos number
The Erdős number describes the "collaborative distance" between a person and mathematician Paul Erdős, as measured by authorship of mathematical papers.The same principle has been proposed for other eminent persons in other fields.- Overview :...

s sometimes assigned to mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

 authors.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 (elected 1992) and the American Law Institute
American Law Institute
The American Law Institute was established in 1923 to promote the clarification and simplification of American common law and its adaptation to changing social needs. The ALI drafts, approves, and publishes Restatements of the Law, Principles of the Law, model codes, and other proposals for law...

 (since 1990).

Legal philosophy


Sunstein is a proponent of judicial minimalism, arguing that judges should focus primarily on deciding the case at hand, and avoid making sweeping changes to the law or decisions that have broad-reaching effects. Some view him as liberal, despite Sunstein's public support for George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

's judicial nominees Michael W. McConnell
Michael W. McConnell
Michael William McConnell is a constitutional law scholar who served as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from 2002 until 2009. Since 2009, Judge McConnell has served as Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School...

 and John G. Roberts, as well as providing strong theoretical support for the death penalty. Much of his work also brings behavioral economics to bear on law, suggesting that the "rational actor" model will sometimes produce an inadequate understanding of how people will respond to legal intervention.

In recent years Sunstein has collaborated with academics who have training in behavioral economics, most notably Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist and Nobel laureate. He is notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology....

, Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler
Richard H. Thaler is an American economist and the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business...

, and Christine M. Jolls
Christine M. Jolls
Christine Jolls is the Gordon Bradford Tweedy Professor of Law and Organization at Yale Law School, where she has been on the faculty since 2006. In addition to being a leader in the emerging theory of behavioral law and economics, her areas of research include employment law and contracts. She...

, to show how the theoretical assumptions of law and economics
Law and economics
The economic analysis of law is an analysis of law applying methods of economics. Economic concepts are used to explain the effects of laws, to assess which legal rules are economically efficient, and to predict which legal rules will be promulgated.-Relationship to other disciplines and...

 should be modified by new empirical findings about how people actually behave.

The interpretation of federal law should be made not by judges but by the beliefs and commitments of the U.S. president and those around him, according to Sunstein.
"There is no reason to believe that in the face of statutory ambiguity, the meaning of federal law should be settled by the inclinations and predispositions of federal judges. The outcome should instead depend on the commitments and beliefs of the President and those who operate under him," argued Sunstein.

Sunstein (along with his coauthor Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler
Richard H. Thaler is an American economist and the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business...

) has elaborated the theory of libertarian paternalism. In arguing for this theory, he counsels thinkers/academics/politicians to embrace the findings of behavioral economics as applied to law, maintaining freedom of choice while also steering people's decisions in directions that will make their lives go better. With Thaler, he coined the term "choice architect
Choice architecture
Choice architecture describes the way in which decisions are influenced by how the choices are presented , and is a term used by Cass Sunstein and economist Richard Thaler in the 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness...

."

Military commissions


In 2002, at the height of controversy over Bush's creation of military commissions without Congressional approval, Sunstein stepped forward to insist, "Under existing law, President George W. Bush has the legal authority to use military commissions" and that "President Bush's choice stands on firm legal ground." Sunstein scorned as "ludicrous" an argument from law professor George P. Fletcher
George P. Fletcher
George P. Fletcher is the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia University School of Law.Fletcher attended Cornell University from 1956 to 1959, studying mathematics and Russian. He received a B.A. in 1960 from University of California, Berkeley and his J.D. in 1964 from the University of...

, who believed that the Supreme Court would find Bush's military commissions without any legal basis.

First Amendment


In his book Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech Sunstein says there is a need to reformulate First Amendment law
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

. He thinks that the current formulation, based on Justice Holmes'
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932...

 conception of free speech as a marketplace “disserves the aspirations of those who wrote America’s founding document.” The purpose of this reformulation would be to “reinvigorate processes of democratic deliberation, by ensuring greater attention to public issues and greater diversity of views.” He is concerned by the present “situation in which like-minded people speak or listen mostly to one another,” and thinks that in “light of astonishing economic and technological changes, we must doubt whether, as interpreted, the constitutional guarantee of free speech is adequately serving democratic goals.” He proposes a “New Deal for speech [that] would draw on Justice Brandeis'
Louis Brandeis
Louis Dembitz Brandeis ; November 13, 1856 – October 5, 1941) was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939.He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents who raised him in a secular mode...

 insistence on the role of free speech in promoting political deliberation and citizenship.”

Animal rights


Some of Sunstein's work has addressed the question of animal rights, as he co-authored a book dealing with the subject, has written papers on it, and was an invited speaker at "FACING ANIMALS," an event at Harvard University described as "a groundbreaking panel on animals in ethics and the law." “Every reasonable person believes in animal rights,” he says, continuing that "we might conclude that certain practices cannot be defended and should not be allowed to continue, if, in practice, mere regulation will inevitably be insufficient—and if, in practice, mere regulation will ensure that the level of animal suffering will remain very high."

Sunstein's views on animal rights generated controversy when Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) blocked his appointment to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs by Obama. Chambliss objected to the introduction of Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, a volume edited by Sunstein and his then-partner Martha Nussbaum. On page 11 of the introduction, during a philosophical discussion about whether animals should be thought of as owned by humans, Sunstein notes that personhood need not be conferred upon an animal in order to grant it various legal protections against abuse or cruelty, even including legal standing
Standing (law)
In law, standing or locus standi is the term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case...

 for suit. For example, under current law, if someone saw their neighbor beating a dog, they currently cannot sue for animal cruelty because they do not have legal standing to do so. Sunstein suggests that granting standing to animals, actionable by other parties, could decrease animal cruelty by increasing the likelihood that animal abuse will be punished.

Taxation


Sunstein has argued, “We should celebrate tax day.” Sunstein argues that since government (in the form of police, fire departments, insured banks, and courts) protects and preserves property and liberty, individuals should happily finance it with their tax dollars:


In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully ‘ours’? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without the support of bank regulators? Could we spend it if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live? Without taxes, there would be no liberty. Without taxes there would be no property. Without taxes, few of us would have any assets worth defending. [It is] a dim fiction that some people enjoy and exercise their rights without placing any burden whatsoever on the public… There is no liberty without dependency.


Sunstein goes on to say:

If government could not intervene effectively, none of the individual rights to which Americans have become accustomed could be reliably protected. [...] This is why the overused distinction between "negative" and "positive" rights makes little sense. Rights to private property, freedom of speech, immunity from police abuse, contractual liberty and free exercise of religion—just as much as rights to Social Security, Medicare and food stamps—are taxpayer-funded and government-managed social services designed to improve collective and individual well-being.

Marriage


In a recent book, Sunstein proposes that government recognition of marriage be discontinued. "Under our proposal, the word marriage would no longer appear in any laws, and marriage licenses would no longer be offered or recognized by any level of government," argues Sunstein. He continues, "the only legal status states would confer on couples would be a civil union, which would be a domestic partnership agreement between any two people." He goes on further, "Governments would not be asked to endorse any particular relationships by conferring on them the term marriage," and refers to state-recognized marriage as an "official license scheme."

"Conspiracy Theories" and government infiltration


Sunstein co-authored a 2008 paper with Adrian Vermeule
Adrian Vermeule
Adrian Vermeule, who is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, has been Professor of Law at Harvard Law School since 2006 and was named John H. Watson Professor of Law in 2008. He was a Visiting Professor of Law in 2005...

, titled "Conspiracy Theories," dealing with the risks and possible government responses to false conspiracy theories resulting from "cascades" of faulty information within groups that may ultimately lead to violence. In this article they wrote, "The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be." They go on to propose that, "the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups", where they suggest, among other tactics, "Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action." They refer, several times, to groups that promote the view that the US Government was responsible or complicit in the September 11 attacks as "extremist groups."

Sunstein and Vermeule also analyze the practice of recruiting "nongovernmental officials"; they suggest that "government can supply these independent experts with information and perhaps prod them into action from behind the scenes," further warning that "too close a connection will be self-defeating if it is exposed." Sunstein and Vermeule argue that the practice of enlisting non-government officials, "might ensure that credible independent experts offer the rebuttal, rather than government officials themselves. There is a tradeoff between credibility and control, however. The price of credibility is that government cannot be seen to control the independent experts." This position has been criticized by some commentators, who argue that it would violate prohibitions on government propaganda aimed at domestic citizens. Sunstein and Vermeule's proposed infiltrations have also been met by sharply critical scholarly critiques.

Personal


In the 1980s and early 1990s, Sunstein was married to Lisa Ruddick, whom he met as an undergraduate at Harvard. She is now associate professor of English at the University of Chicago, specializing in British modernism. Their marriage ended not long after the birth of their daughter, Ellyn. He then began seeing Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum , is an American philosopher with a particular interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy and ethics....

, philosopher, classicist, and professor of law at the University of Chicago.

On July 4, 2008, Sunstein married Samantha Power
Samantha Power
Samantha Power is an Irish American academic, governmental official and writer. She is currently a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and runs the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights as Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the Staff of the National Security Council...

, professor of public policy at Harvard, whom he met when they worked as advisors to Sunstein's friend and former colleague at the University of Chicago Law School
University of Chicago Law School
The University of Chicago Law School was founded in 1902 as the graduate school of law at the University of Chicago and is among the most prestigious and selective law schools in the world. The U.S. News & World Report currently ranks it fifth among U.S...

, President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

, on his presidential campaign. The wedding took place in County Kerry
County Kerry
Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective...

 in Power’s native Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

.

Sunstein had a pet Rhodesian ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dog breed developed in Southern Africa, where it was used to hunt Lions. This is most likely why this dog is known for its bravery...

, Perry. During the Clinton impeachment hearings, Sunstein grew tired of appearing on news programs, and agreed to appear on Greta Van Susteren
Greta Van Susteren
Greta Van Susteren is an American commentator and television personality on the Fox News Channel, where she hosts On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren...

's CNN program only if he could bring Perry on the show with him; she agreed. Perry died in the fall of 2008. The University Of Chicago Law School has created the Perry/Sunstein fund in Perry's memory, a scholarship fund for a student with an interest in animal welfare.

Books

  • Law and Happiness (The University of Chicago Press 2010) ISBN 9780226676005
  • On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done (Macmillan Publishers 2009)
  • Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness
    Nudge (book)
    Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness is a book written by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The book draws on research in psychology and behavioral economics to defend libertarian paternalism and active engineering of choice architecture.The book received mixed reviews...

    with Richard Thaler (Yale University Press, 2008)
  • Worst-Case Scenarios, (Harvard University Press 2007)
  • Republic.com 2.0 (Princeton University Press 2007)
  • Are Judges Political? An Empirical Investigation of the Federal Judiciary with David Schkade, Lisa Ellman, and Andres Sawicki, (Brookings Institution Press 2006)
  • Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, (Oxford University Press 2006)
  • The Second Bill of Rights: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever, (Basic Books 2006)
  • Radicals in Robes: Why Extreme Right-Wing Courts Are Wrong for America (Basic Books 2005)
  • Constitutional Law 5th ed. with G. Stone, L.M. Seidman, P. Karlan, and M. Tushnet, (Aspen 2005)
  • The Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (based on the Seeley Lectures 2004 at Cambridge University), (Cambridge University Press 2005)(Trad. esp.: Leyes de miedo, Buenos Aires/Madrid, Katz editores S.A, 2009, ISBN 9788496859616)
  • The Second Bill of Rights: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever (Basic Books 2004)
  • Why Societies Need Dissent, (Harvard University Press 2003).
  • Animal Rights: Current Controversies and New Directions edited with Martha Nussbaum, (Oxford University Press 2004)
  • Risk and Reason, (Cambridge University Press 2002) (Trad. esp.: Riesgo y razón, Buenos Aires/Madrid, Katz editores S.A, 2006, ISBN 8460983501)
  • The Cost-Benefit State, (American Bar Association 2002)
  • Punitive Damages: How Juries Decide with Reid Hastie, John Payne and David Schkade, (University of Chicago Press 2002)
  • Republic.com, (Princeton University Press 2002)
  • Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy with Stephen Breyer, Richard B. Stewart, and Matthew Spitzer, (1999; new edition 2002)
  • Free Markets and Social Justice, (2002)
  • Designing Democracy: What Constitutions Do (Oxford University Press 2001)
  • The Vote: Bush, Gore & the Supreme Court with Richard Epstein, (University of Chicago Press 2001)
  • Constitutional Law 4th ed. with Stone, Seidman, and Tushnet, (2001)
  • Behavioral Law and Economics, (editor, Cambridge University Press 2000)
  • One Case At A Time: Judicial Minimalism on the Supreme Court (Harvard University Press 1999)
  • The Cost of Rights with Stephen Holmes, (1999, W.W. Norton paperback 2000)
  • Clones and Clones: Facts and Fantasies About Human Cloning with Martha Nussbaum, (W.W. Norton 1998)
  • Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict, (Oxford University Press 1996)
  • Free Markets and Social Justice, (Oxford University Press 1997)
  • Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech, (The Free Press 1993)
  • The Partial Constitution, (Harvard University Press 1993)
  • After the Rights Revolution: Reconceiving the Regulatory State, (Harvard University Press 1990)
  • Constitutional Law, (Little, Brown & Co. 1st edition 1986; 2d edition 1991; 3d edition 1995)
  • The Bill of Rights and the Modern State co-editor with Geoffey R. Stone and Richard A. Epstein, (University of Chicago Press 1992)
  • Feminism and Political Theory, (editor, University of Chicago Press 1990)

See also

  • List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Barack Obama Supreme Court candidates
    Barack Obama Supreme Court candidates
    President Barack Obama has made two successful appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States. The first was that of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Justice David H. Souter. Sotomayor was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 6,...

  • Choice architecture
    Choice architecture
    Choice architecture describes the way in which decisions are influenced by how the choices are presented , and is a term used by Cass Sunstein and economist Richard Thaler in the 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness...

  • List of U.S. executive branch 'czars'

External links