Mariah Zeisberg

Associate Professor
Political Science Department
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


5700 Haven Hall · 505 S. State St. · Ann Arbor, MI 48109 · CV



Research & Publications

War Powers: The Politics of Constitutional Authority (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, May 2013). Winner of 2014 Richard E. Neustadt Prize from the Presidents & Executive Politics Section of the APSA.

This book develops a robust theory of constitutional interpretation for non-judicial actors. Its specific focus is on how the branches can generate authoritative interpretations about the Constitution's war powers regime in the context of their own times. It starts with a central question of war powers scholarship today: whether the president, or Congress, has constitutional authority to take the country to war. I suggest that, rather than offering a single legal answer to that question, the Constitution's structure and values indicate a vision of a well-functioning constitutional politics, one that enables the branches themselves to generate good answers to this question for the circumstances of their own times. Constitutionally faithful behavior does not entail enacting the same constitutional settlement for all conditions, but instead requires the branches to bring their distinctive governing capacities to bear on their interpretive work in context.

Because the elected branches, not the Supreme Court, are the enforcers of constitutional meaning here, the book develops our understanding of constitutional fidelity outside of the courts by advancing a set of political standards for the assessment of the branches in context. Rather than relying on standards of legal normativity as a benchmark for assessing fidelity, the book's political standards include, in the case of war powers, questions including security need and institutional performance. The book uses these standards to reframe core controversies in the war powers literature. Chapters compare cases ranging from from the Mexican War and World War II to the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, Senate Munitions Investigation of the mid-1930s, and Iran-Contra scandal.

to publisher · to purchase on


"A Symposium on War Powers and the Constitution," 95 Boston University Law Review 4 (July 2015) (Essays on the book by myself, Stephen Griffin, Douglas Kriner, Pnina Lahav, Gary Lawson, and Kaija Schilde)

“Constitutionalism and War-Making,” Peter Shane, Texas Law Review 92:689-715 (February 2014).

“War Powers: The Politics of Constitutional Authority,” Bruce Peabody, Congress and the Presidency 41:2, 259-261 (May 2014)

Book Conferences:

"War Powers" (joint with Stephen Griffin's The Longest War) Boston University Law Review Symposium.

"War Powers" Georgetown University Law Center. September 2013.

“Constitutional War Powers” (Joint with Stephen Griffin’s book The Longest War). Tulane Law School. October 2013.

Errata (for hardback edition only)

Current Research:

My present work is happening on two tracks. One project explores constitutional authority. I want to develop a robust way of talking about the distinctively political authority that rests behind many interpretive projects. Drawing on a study of Frederick Douglass' constitutional politics ("Frederick Douglass, Citizen Interpreter" (manuscript) SSRN), I note that a great deal of constitutional transformation that is accepted as authoritative by the public and by scholars and elites in fact was not legally-generated nor can it be understood uniquely in legal terms. What does the political authority to interpret a text consist of? How is politically-responsible interpretation different from interpretation that is legally or linguistically responsible?

I am also working on a project about constitutional dilemmas associated with global governance. Building on "Forced to be Free: Coercive Acquisition and Constitutional Imperialism" (manuscript) SSRN, I am curious about how the background characteristics of the global order -- for example, the extent to which it is imperialist or republican -- might transform domestic constitutional debates about the war power, treaty powers, issues of non-delegation and separation of powers.


“Should We Elect the US Supreme Court?” Perspectives on Politics vol. 7 no. 4 (December 2009)

“A New Framing? Constitutional Representation at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center” Perspectives on Politics vol. 6 no. 3 (September 2008)

“Religious Freedom in Canada and the United States” (co-authored with Christopher Eisgruber) ICON International Journal of Constitutional Law (April 2006)

“Constitutional Fidelity and Interbranch Conflict” The Good Society vol. 13.3 (December 2004)


“The Relational Conception of War Powers.” Stephen Macedo and Jeffrey Tulis, eds., The Limits of Constitutional Democracy, Princeton University Press (2010) Link to

Op-Eds and Occasional Pieces

"Executive Secrecy" (with William Howell) Boston Review (July 1, 2015)

"Debate over War Powers may yield positive outcome" Constitution Daily (September 25, 2013)


“Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11” (by Jack Goldsmith) Tulsa Law Review (2013)

“The Politics of Constitutional Fidelity" (review of Jack M. Balkin, Living Originalism) University of Illinois Law Journal 2012 (3): 801-814 (2012)

“Democratic Processualism” (review of Stephen Elkin, Reconstructing the Commercial Republic: Constitutional Design After Madison) The Journal of Social Philosophy 41 (2): 202-209 (2010)

“Interpreting Constitutions: A Comparative Study” Law and Politics Book Review  vol. 16.8 (August 2006)


American Constitutional Politics · Syllabus

The Constitution Outside of the Courts · Syllabus

Theories of Judicial Review · Syllabus

Legal Theory · Syllabus

War and the Constitution · Syllabus

(For syllabi for other years or topics, please email me directly)