hero image
Ryan Black - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Ryan Black

Professor | Michigan State University


US Supreme Court, judicial politics, legal institutions


Ryan C. Black is Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University and a faculty affiliate with the MSU College of Law. His research focuses on U.S. Supreme Court decision making. He has published two books with Cambridge University Press and one with the University of Michigan Press. He has also published over 50 articles or chapters in a variety of peer-reviewed political science journals (e.g., American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics), peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journals (e.g., Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Journal of Law and Courts), and law reviews (e.g., Georgetown Law Journal). His work has also been funded by the National Science Foundation.

Black is a recipient of an MSU Lilly Teaching Fellowship (2012-2013), a 2014 winner of MSU’s campus-wide Teacher-Scholar Award, the 2016 winner of the College of Social Science Alumni Association Outstanding Teaching Award, the 2017 winner of MSU’s Honors College Award for Distinguished Contributions to Honors Students, a winner of the 2018 MSU Alumni Club of Mid-Michigan Quality in Undergraduate Teaching Award, and the 2019 winner of the President's Distinguished Teaching Award. His teaching interests focus on judicial politics and integrative social science.

He joined MSU in 2009 after receiving his Ph.D. in political science from Washington University in St. Louis earlier that same year. He earned his bachelor’s degree, also in political science, in 2004 from the University of Minnesota.

Industry Expertise (3)


Political Organization


Areas of Expertise (3)

Legal Institutions

US Supreme Court

Judicial Politics

Accomplishments (1)

Teacher-Scholar Award

2014 Michigan State University

Education (3)

Washington University in St. Louis: Ph.D., Political Science. 2009

Washington University in St. Louis: A.M., Political Science. 2006

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities: B.A., Political Science 2004

Affiliations (1)

  • Award Committee Member. Lasting Contribution (Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association, 2011).

News (2)

Students come of age into politics on campus

Spartan Newsroom  


Ryan Black, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State, said “campus culture” is like the microcosm of society. “Students bring their political beliefs to campus and are able to really develop their ideas,” Black said. Black said politics are mostly about personal beliefs and values. Once students come to college, they start to become more concrete in their values and opinions, which leads to the ability to handle more intense political debates. College is when young adults are presented with more opportunities to challenge these values and opinions, he said...

view more

Flashy Language Doesn’t Fly With Supreme Court

MSU Today  


Is your client an “elderly widow seeking to retain her lifelong home”? Stick with that. Taking it further by claiming she is an “innocent victim of a heartless system that lacks compassion” is simply too much, said Ryan C. Black, MSU associate professor of political science and a Supreme Court expert. “Our findings show that Supreme Court justices are less likely to side with briefs that use flashy adjectives and emotionally charged language,” Black said. “Justices are trained in the traditional ‘rule of law’ approach that values objective, logical arguments.”...

view more

Journal Articles (3)

Agenda setting in the Supreme Court: The collision of policy and jurisprudence

The Journal of Politics

Ryan C Black, Ryan J Owens

2009 For decades, scholars have searched for data to show that Supreme Court justices are influenced not only by policy goals but also by legal considerations. Analyzing justices' agenda-setting decisions, we show that while justices are largely motivated by policy concerns, jurisprudential considerations can prevail over their policy goals. When policy goals and legal considerations collide, policy gives way. If legal considerations and policy goals align toward the same end, law liberates justices to pursue policy. In short, we find that at the intersection of law and politics, law is both a constraint on and an opportunity for justices.

view more

The solicitor general and the United States Supreme Court: Executive influence and judicial decisions

New York: Cambridge University Press

Ryan C Black, Ryan J Owens

2012 Scholars agree that the United States Solicitor General in very successful before the Supreme Court but there is little research into whether the SG actually influences the choices justices make. In this paper (which is a condensed version of our book on the SG), we delineate the major theories for Solicitor General success and then apply cutting edge matching methods to examine Solicitor General influence. Our results indicter that SGs, and the attorneys within the Office of the Solicitor General, are very influential and lead justices to take actions they otherwise would not take in the SG’s absence.

view more

Empirical Analysis of the Length of US Supreme Court Opinions, An

Houston Law Review

Ryan C. Black, James F. Spriggs II


view more