2008
Alumni (National Fellow)

Jefferson Decker

National Fellow
Degrees:
Ph.D. Columbia University (2008)
Fields of Interest:
American Political Development
Conservatism
Legal History

Thesis Description:

The Conservative Legal Movement and American Government, 1971-1987
His dissertation described the political mobilization of conservative lawyers and their attempt to reform and reshape American government. In the 1970s, conservative lawyers, political activists, and donors created a network of non-profit legal foundations in order to challenge liberalism in the courts. These groups took on a variety of cases, from challenging local land use regulations and offering a “pro-business” perspective on environmental disputes to challenging “sweetheart deals” between government agencies and liberal trial lawyers. In doing so, they sought to reassert principles of federalism and limited government, while restricting (or rolling back) the regulatory state. After Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, veterans of these firms took jobs in the new administration, where they had an opportunity to rework some of the policies they had litigated from inside the government. In describing this journey from outsiders to policymakers, this dissertation described the evolution of public policy and conservative ideas about the law during the Reagan era.

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