Tom Keck is the Michael O. Sawyer Chair of Constitutional Law and Politics and Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is a graduate of Baltimore City College, Oberlin College, and Rutgers University. After receiving his Ph.D. in political science in 1999, he taught at the University of Oklahoma for several years before joining the Maxwell School in 2002.
In 2004, the University of Chicago Press published Professor Keck’s first book, The Most Activist Supreme Court in History: The Road to Modern Judicial Conservatism. Tracing the rise of conservative judicial activism (and the surprising resilience of liberal judicial activism) on the late-twentieth-century Supreme Court, the book received a number of favorable reviews, with Choice recommending that “if you read just one book on the history of the modern Supreme Court, this should probably be the one.” In 2008, Professor Keck received a Sabbatical Fellowship from the American Philosophical Society to support the completion of a second book project. Entitled Judicial Politics in Polarized Times and published by the University of Chicago Press in 2014, this book examines the response by contemporary U.S. judges to endemic patterns of litigation, from the left and the right, on four polarizing political issues: abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, and gun rights.
Professor Keck’s research has also appeared in leading journals in the fields of political science and socio-legal studies. His 2007 article on Supreme Court decision-making, published in the American Political Science Review, received the Houghton Mifflin Award for the best journal article on law and courts written by a political scientist that year. Two more recent articles, published in Law & Society Review and Law & Social Inquiry, respectively, explored the reasons that political movements on the left and the right so often turn to litigation and the conditions under which such strategies are likely to be successful.
With support from the US National Science Foundation and Fritt Ord (a Norwegian foundation), he is currently engaged in a collaborative investigation of the political beneficiaries of free expression jurisprudence worldwide. One early paper drawn from this project, published in Constitutional Studies, investigates the question of whether some vulnerable groups can be protected from hateful speech without creating harmful double standards with respect to other such groups who are not so protected. A second paper examines the response by multiple courts, across both civil- and common-law jurisdictions, to free expression disputes involving criticism of courts and judges.
Professor Keck has delivered more than twenty-five scholarly papers and addresses, including invited talks at Carleton College, Harvard Law School, Princeton University, and the University of Bergen. He has long been an active member of the Law and Society Association (LSA) and of the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). In the latter capacity, he has served on the editorial board of the Section’s newsletter, the Section’s Nominations Committee, the Annual Meeting Program Committee, and the Pritchett, Corwin, and Best Conference Paper Award Committees. He has also chaired the Greenstone Award Committee for APSA’s Politics and History Section and the Student Award Committee for LSA, and has served on the Best Conference Paper Award Committee for APSA’s Sexuality and Politics Section. He previously served as Associate Editor of Politics & Gender.
At Syracuse, Professor Keck served as an elected member of the University Senate from 2007-2017, and he has served on the University Senate Committees on Administrative Operations; LGBT Concerns; and Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Professional Ethics (AFTPE). In 2008, he received the Foundation Award for Outstanding Faculty Member, awarded annually by the campus LGBT community to recognize a faculty member’s leadership in creating a campus that is inclusive and nurturing for LGBT students, faculty, and staff. In 2016, he received the Excellence in Graduate Education Faculty Recognition Award. As holder of the Sawyer Chair since 2009, Professor Keck directs the Sawyer Law and Politics Program (SLAPP), an interdisciplinary initiative devoted to advancing teaching and research in the field of law and politics.