Abby Blass, Ph.D.

Researcher, Law and Political Science


“Weak Review, Strong Courts: Judicial Institutions and Influence in the United States and France” (2023)

In her dissertation, Abby explored differences in the willingness of high court judges to use their constitutional review authority to participate in national policymaking. Using quantitative and qualitative analysis of judicial decisions invalidating national laws over thirty years in the United States and France, and with comparative reference to judicial review United Kingdom, she showed how, contrary to conventional wisdom, judges equipped with the so-called “last word” on policy—those with strong form constitutional review in fragmented political environments—use their power more sparingly and over a narrower range of policy domains, than their counterparts with weaker forms of review in political systems that offer straightforward mechanisms to displace judicial opinions. This is true over the long term, because giving judges the ‘last word’ on matters of policy raises the stakes of judicial review and invites backlash from political actors with the power to limit a high court’s autonomy or its authority. Her results show that, counterintuitively, strong-form judicial review and judicial “finality” may be counterproductive to the long-term project of judicial independence and empowerment.

Abby spent one year as a visiting researcher at the Center for European Studies at Sciences Po Paris to study the French Constitutional Council, and one year as a visiting researcher at the University of Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies to study the new UK Supreme Court. Her research was supported by a Macdonald Research Fellowship, a Long Research Fellowship, and a FLAS Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Center for European Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Abby can be reached at