This groundbreaking book contributes to an emerging literature that examines responses to the rights revolution that unfolded in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. Using original archival evidence and data, Stephen B. Burbank and Sean Farhang identify the origins of the counterrevolution against private enforcement of federal law in the first Reagan Administration. They then measure the counterrevolution's trajectory in the elected branches, court rulemaking, and the Supreme Court, evaluate its success in those different lawmaking sites, and test key elements of their argument. Finally, the authors leverage an institutional perspective to explain a striking variation in their results: although the counterrevolution largely failed in more democratic lawmaking sites, in a long series of cases little noticed by the public, an increasingly conservative and ideologically polarized Supreme Court has transformed federal law, making it less friendly, if not hostile, to the enforcement of rights through lawsuits.
Stephen B. Burbank is David Berger Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is the author of numerous articles drawing on interdisciplinary perspectives and served as Chair of the Board of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Burbank was a member of the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal and a principal author of its report. Sean Farhang is Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Litigation State: Public Regulation and Private Lawsuits in the US (2010), which received the Gladys M. Kammerer Award from the American Political Science Association for the best book in the field of US national policy, as well as the C. Herman Pritchett award from the American Political Science Association for the best book on law and courts.