Section By Laws

I. Name and Purpose of Section

The name of this Section is the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association. The purpose of the Section is to promote interest in teaching and research in the areas of law and courts. The Section also seeks to encourage communication between persons interested in law and courts within the Association and with related disciplines. The Section also encourages its members to share their expertise broadly to educate and inform policymakers, state and non-state political actors, and the general public about law and courts.

II. Mission Statement

The Law & Courts section of the American Political Science Association seeks to promote interest in teaching and research in the areas of law, legal enforcement, rule of law, and the functioning and impact of courts anywhere within the world. We work to attract, develop, and retain the best scholars from all walks of life and backgrounds. We develop a culture of scholarly excellence and inclusion where all individuals are respected, treated fairly, supported, and offered equitable opportunities to excel. We work to ensure a professional, collegial environment that is committed to diverse scholarship, ideas, and methodologies. We recognize the responsibilities of the section as well as those of universities, colleges, departments, and individuals in fostering a culture of mutual respect and scholarly excellence. Both top-down and grassroots efforts are necessary to improve the representation of women, people of color, and other minorities to generate an innovative, integrated, and competitive field.

III. Governance of the Section

  1. The Section will be governed by a Chairperson, a Chairperson-elect, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and five members of the Executive Committee.
  1. The duties of these officers is as follows:

Chairperson: Chair an Annual Section Meeting during the Annual Meeting of the APSA; organize Section meetings or panels as requested by the Executive Committee, by regional associations, or related disciplines; chair or select a chair for a nominating committee for Section officers; and take other actions requested by the Executive Committee or that are in the interest of the Section.

Chairperson-elect: Assume the office of Chairperson at the next annual Section meeting; serve as a member of the Executive Committee; chair the meeting of the Section or Executive Committee in the absence of the Chairperson; assume the office of Chairperson in the event of a vacancy.

Secretary: Maintain a record of actions of the Executive Committee and the annual meeting; communicate relevant information to the Section membership; and conduct mail ballots when necessary.

Treasurer: Maintain the financial records of the Section.

Executive Committee: Except when the office of Chairperson is filled as described above, it shall fill all vacancies in any office including its own membership until the next election; audit the annual reports of the Secretary and Treasurer; propose amendments to these bylaws or receive petitions for changes in the bylaws; make decisions and recommendations for any other business of the Section; and interpret these bylaws.

  1. Leadership and Policy-Making

The Officers and Executive Committee shall constitute the Section’s leadership but are encouraged to incorporate in leadership discussions and decisions as appropriate additional individuals who serve the Section in an institutional capacity, including the Lawcourts Listserv moderator, the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Law and Courts, the Law and Politics Book Review Editor, and the Law and Courts Newsletter Editor.

The Section’s leadership shall have the authority to develop and implement policies and recommend best practices for any activities sponsored by the Section. Policies and best practices shall be publicized as soon as practically possible on the Section webpage, via APSAConnect, and in the Law and Courts Newsletter. No new policy shall be promulgated or implemented less than one calendar month in advance of the Section’s annual meeting at APSA.

Any policy adopted and implemented by the Section’s leadership may be placed on the agenda for further discussion at the Section’s annual meeting at APSA. Upon a motion and second by any attending members of the Section, newly adopted policies may be subject to an approval vote by the Section membership. The approval vote shall take place by secure web voting via unique links sent to all members of the Section. Approval shall be determined by a majority vote of all members participating in the election.

Section members are encouraged to report any instances of wrongful behavior in connection with any section activity to the section leadership. Upon the leadership’s determination that a colorable report of wrongdoing has been received, the section leadership will refer the matter to the APSA ethics committee for consideration.

  1. The election of officers should proceed as follows:

1. In March the Section Chairperson should organize a nominating committee consisting of at least five members of the Section representing the diverse interests of the Section.

2. Following its appointment, the nominating committee should solicit the members of the Section for nominations for Section offices. The nominating committee shall nominate a slate of officers that (a) is taken from the names received particularly those persons receiving several mentions, and (b) represents the diverse interests of the Section. The slate shall be listed in the summer issue of the Section Newsletter and/or PS or otherwise distributed to the Section members so that the nominees are known prior to the Annual Section Meeting.

3. Five members of the Section may nominate candidates for any office (except chairperson) at the Annual Section Meeting, or by petition sent to the Chairperson prior to the meeting.

4. For offices for which no nominations are received or made at the Annual Section Meeting, the nominating committee’s slate shall be submitted for election at the Section Meeting. The new officers shall assume office at the conclusion of the meeting. Offices which are contested shall be filled by secure web voting via unique links sent to all members of the Section. The winner shall be determined by a majority vote of all members participating in the election. In cases where no individual receives a majority of votes, a run-off election between candidates receiving the two greater number of votes will be held. The winner shall assume office upon election.

5. The membership of the Section should be informed of the election outcomes in next Section Newsletter.

6. Questions or conflicts regarding any election should be settled by the Executive Committee.

  1. The terms of office for Section officers are as follows:

Chairperson: one year

Chairperson-elect: one year

Secretary: three years

Treasurer: three years

Executive Committee: two years

Terms shall expire at the conclusion of the APSA Annual Meeting, except that when an office is contested, the incumbent shall continue in office until his/her successor is elected.

IV. Section Committees and Awards

  1. The Chairperson shall be responsible for appointing all section committees. In inviting and appointing committee members, the Chairperson shall select based on expertise and experience but shall also attend to incorporating a variety of perspectives and diversities, including but not limited to rank, type of institution, geography, identity characteristics, and methods and epistemology.
  1. All section awards shall be selected by duly constituted committees consisting of at least three but not more than five members.
  1. New Section Awards
  1. Any section member may propose a new award in writing to the Chairperson.
  2. Upon receipt of a proposal, the Chairperson shall appoint an ad hoc committee to consider the award. If the committee recommends that the new award be established, the committee shall draft the award parameters and selection criteria.
  3. The Section leadership shall review the ad hoc committee’s report and decide whether to adopt the award. An award adopted by the Section leadership may be reconsidered by the full Section membership through the process described in II. C.
  4. The Section leadership or any member may propose naming a new award to memorialize exceptional contributors to the Section and/or to the American Political Science Association. For an award to be named in this fashion, the Chairperson shall appoint a member of the Section Executive Committee to collect any comments about the proposed memorialization and provide a confidential report to the Section leadership advising whether the memorialization should proceed. No Section award shall be named for an individual without a period of at least one calendar month of collecting comments and the transmission of the report to the Section leadership
  1. The Chairperson may, with the advice and consent of the Section’s leadership, constitute additional ad hoc committees to manage the Section’s business. The term of an ad hoc committee may not extend beyond the term of the appointing Chairperson, but a subsequent Chairperson may opt to continue an ad hoc committee.

V. Membership in the Section

  1. All regular, student, family, retired, and life members of the American Political
  2. Associate membership in the Section is available to all non-political scientists who share an interest in law and the judicial process. Associate members may receive all benefits and services of regular members except that they may not participate in the election of officers or serve as officers.
  3. Membership in the Section is established by payment of annual Section dues to the APSA, or, for associate members, to the Treasurer.
  4. The dues for members and associate members will be set by the Executive Committee at the level necessary to cover expenses for elections and other services provided by the Section.

VI. Amendments to the Bylaws
Amendments to these bylaws may be proposed by the Executive Committee, by a majority vote of the participants at the Annual Section Meeting, or by a petition containing the names of 25 percent of the members of the Section submitted to the Chairperson 30 days prior to the Annual Section Meeting. Amendments should be voted upon by secure web voting via unique links sent to all members of the Section. Amendments to the bylaws become effective immediately after approval by two-thirds of the members returning their mail ballots.

VII. Implementation of Those Bylaws
This Section will be official upon receipt of 100 signatures of interested members of the APSA and approval of the APSA Executive Council.

After receipt of at least 100 signatures of interested members, the convenor of the Law, Courts, and Judicial Behavior Subfield Group should organize a representative committee for the organization and conducting of elections for officers at the next Annual APSA Meeting or by April 1st which ever comes first. The officials should assume their official duties when elections are completed

At the first Annual Section Meeting, Executive Committee members should draw lots to determine which two members will serve one year terms and the remaining three, two years terms.

VIII. Law and Courts Section Conflict of Interest Policy

1. All members of section award committees are expected to act in accordance with general professional norms regarding conflict of interest. In general, this means that individuals should recuse themselves whenever they believe that, for reasons of personal favoritism or animus, (a) they are not in a position to provide an unbiased assessment of a colleague’s worthiness for an award or (b) they would be viewed by a reasonable person as not sufficiently unbiased.

2. In addition to this general obligation, members of section award committees must recuse themselves whenever a person being considered for an award is (a) a former student, (b) a former co-author over the previous five years, or (c) a former dissertation adviser. In such cases it is presumed that a committee member always has a personal stake in favorable treatment, since their professional reputation is enhanced by their affiliation with an award-winning student, co-author, or adviser.

3. Whenever there is a dispute within an awards committee about the appropriateness of a recusal, that dispute will be brought to the attention of the Section Chair, who will relay the dispute to the Executive Committee for a final resolution via a majority vote.

4. The Section Chair is authorized to appoint substitute members to an awards committee whenever recusals or unresolved conflicts of interest prevent a committee from deciding on an awardee via a majority vote.

Adopted by the Executive Committee of the Law and Courts
Organized Section of the American Political Science Association

(Announced in Law and Courts Newsletter, Spring 2008)