Tom Burke

Tom Burke square portrait, 2012
tburke@wellesley.edu

(781) 283-2441
Political Science
B.A., University of Minnesota (Minneapolis); M.A., Ph.D., University of California (Berkeley)
Pendleton Hall East Rm. 234



Tom Burke
Professor of Political Science

Research focuses on the role of courts, rights, and litigation in public policy and politics.


My most recent project, “How Policy Shapes Politics,” with co-author Jeb Barnes (USC), examines how U.S. politics is affected by the American emphasis on court-based rights and litigation. Another study, also with Barnes, examines the ways in which organizations respond to social change laws, using the example of regulations that require facilities to be accessible to people with disabilities.  Our latest article from this project is “Making Way: Legal Mobilization, Organizational Response, and Wheelchair Access” (Law and Society Review, 2012).  Recent publications include "Is There an Empirical Literature on Rights?" (Studies in Law, Politics and Society, 2009) and “Political Regimes and the Future of the First Amendment" (Studies in Law, Politics and Society, 2008).  I have written about the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability politics in the European Union, American campaign finance law, and the role of rights in American politics. I am the co-author, with Lief Carter, of the 8th edition of Reason in Law (2010), and the author of Lawyers, Lawsuits and Legal Rights: The Struggle Over Litigation in American Society (2002).

At Wellesley I teach “Courts, Law, and Politics,” an introduction to the American legal system from a law and society perspective; “Introduction to American Politics,” in which I emphasize a comparative and historical focus; “Health Politics and Policy,” a course that probes the causes and consequences of the distinctive path of the United States in health policy; and specialized seminars on freedom of speech and inequality in law.

I am the Director of Wellesley’s First Year Seminar Program, Co-Director of the Washington Internship Program, and Faculty Coordinator for the Washington Wintersession Program.  With Shep Melnick (Boston College) I convene the Boston Public Law Study Group.   Alongside Elizabeth O’Connell and my colleague Nancy Scherer, I help advise the roughly 8-10% of Wellesley students who (at least historically) attend law school.

I try to be on a bicycle as much as possible, both on and off-road, and even on ice and snow during miserable New England winters.  I love good wine, with a particular interest in German Riesling and California Zinfandel, though I’ll drink pretty much anything good if you offer it to me.

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