Systems Science and the Supreme Court

13 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2016 Last revised: 28 Sep 2017

Date Written: June 10, 2016


Until now, the controversy surrounding Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, has been analyzed from traditional legal perspectives like history, constitutional philosophy, and political theory. So viewed, the appointment crisis is simply a problem of general jurisprudence, which relies upon the humanities and “soft” sciences to understand and explain law’s concepts and conundrums. But this problem-solving approach itself is problematic. Because legal institutions like the Supreme Court are complex social systems, they are susceptible to deeper scientific explanation. In fact, two of “hard” science’s most exciting discoveries — complex systems theory and coordination dynamics — seem to offer insights not accessible through rational analysis or rhetorical argumentation. This brief essay highlights these scientific breakthroughs, explains their key features, and reveals their significance for the law, the Supreme Court, and the Court’s appointment process.

Keywords: Supreme Court, Complex Systems Theory, Complementarity, Coordination Dynamics, Constitutional Interpretation

Suggested Citation

Calnan, Alan, Systems Science and the Supreme Court (June 10, 2016). Wake Forest Law Review Online (Sept. 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Alan Calnan (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States
(213) 738-6811 (Phone)

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