Steven Winter

Steven Winter

Walter S. Gibbs Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law


Room 3329
(313) 577-1053

Steven Winter

  • Biography

    Steven L. Winter joined Wayne State University Law School in 2002 as the Walter S. Gibbs Professor of Constitutional Law. In May 2017 he was promoted to distinguished professor - the highest rank awarded by the university. In 2021, Winter was elected to the WSU Academy of Scholars - the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon WSU faculty members by their peers. Before coming to Wayne Law, he was a member of the faculty at Brooklyn Law School (1997-2002) and the University of Miami School of Law (1986-1997). He also has taught at American University's Washington College of Law and the Cardozo, Rutgers-Newark and Yale law schools.

    After law school, Professor Winter clerked for Judge Paul R. Hays of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. From 1978 to 1986, he served as an assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc., where he litigated a wide range of civil rights cases concerning prisoners' rights, employment discrimination, school desegregation, police violence, capital punishment, habeas corpus jurisdiction, discrimination in the military and attorneys' fees. While there, he worked on more than a dozen U.S. Supreme Court cases, including brief and argument in Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), the landmark case holding the common law fleeing felon rule unconstitutional.

    Professor Winter has served as a consultant for the Helsinki Watch Committee and CIA. In 2001, he filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Intellectual Property Creators and the Society of Amateur Scientists as amici curiae in Festo Corp. v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co., Ltd., 532 U.S. 722 (2002), using developments in cognitive linguistics to argue successfully against reliance on the literal language in patent law.

    Professor Winter is the author of numerous articles on constitutional law and legal theory, including "The Metaphor of Standing and the Problem of Self-Governance;" "Bull Durham and the Uses of Theory;" "An Upside/Down View of the Countermajoritarian Difficulty;" "The 'Power' Thing;" "Melville, Slavery, and the Failure of the Judicial Process;" "What Makes Modernity Late?;" and "Reimagining Democracy for Social Individuals". His book, A Clearing in the Forest: Law, Life and Mind (Univ. of Chicago Press 2001), is the first systematic attempt to assess cognitive science's implications for law and legal theory. He is on the editorial board of Democratic Theory: An Interdisciplinary Journal published by Berghahn Journals and on the advisory board of the Netherland Journal of Legal Philosophy published by Eleven Journals and Explorations in Language and Law published by Nova Logos.

    Professor Winter teaches Property, Constitutional Law, Federal Courts, Regulatory State, Appellate Advocacy, and a variety of seminars on topics in legal theory that have included Ethics of the Lawyering Experience; Contemporary Problems in Legal Theory; Theory of Property; Legal Reasoning; Cognitive Science and Law; Law and Linguistics; and Racism, Cognitive Theory, and the Law.

    Professor Winter is working on a book about consumerism and democracy.

    Special honor:

    On June 22, 2012, the Vereniging voor Wijsbegeerte van het Recht, the Dutch Association of Legal Philosophy, and Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy (fomerly Rechtsfilosofie & Rechtstheorie), the Dutch journal of legal philosophy, held a conference celebrating Professor Winter as "an outstanding international scholar who has made significant contributions to legal and political theory." Previous honorees include Glenn Patrick, Bonnie Honig, Philip Pettit, Neil Walker, and Gunther Teubner. The proceedings have been published in a special issue of the journal. Related news release. Related story in Detroit Legal News.

  • Degrees and Certifications

    J.D., Columbia Law School
    B.A., Yeshiva University

  • Courses Taught

    Constitutional Law
    Federal Courts
    The Regulatory State
    Appellate Advocacy
    Civil Procedure
    Seminar on Ethics of the Lawyering Experience
    Seminar on Consumerism and Democracy
    Seminar on Contemporary Problems in Legal Theory

  • Selected Publications

    Does Justice Have a Syntax?, 69 JOURNAL OF LEGAL EDUCATION 1 (2021)

    “Who” or “What” Is the Rule of Law?, 47 PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIAL CRITICISM (2021)

    Keeping Faith with Nomos, 35 TOURO L. REV. 345 (2020)

    Does Justice Have a Syntax?, 69 J. OF LEGAL EDUC. 198 (2019)

    What a Vote Is Worth, 19 JOURNAL OF LAW IN SOCIETY 264 (2019)

    Cardozo’s Freudian Slips, 34 TOURO L. REV. 359 (2018)

    The Liturgy of Dissent, 13 Journal of Law, Culture and Humanities (2017)

    Jack!, 117 Columbia Law Review 1069 (2017) (In Memoriam Jack Greenberg)

    A Recurrent Prague Spring, 43 Philosophy and Social Criticism 288 (2017)

    When Things Went Terribly, Terribly Wrong Part II, (Jotwell 5th Anniversary Conference: Legal Scholarship We Like and Why It Matters) (Nov. 7, 2014)

    Down Freedom’s Main Line, 41 NETHERLANDS JOURNAL OF LEGAL PHILOSOPHY 202 (2012) (special issue)

    Freedom’s History in the Making: A Reply, 41 NETHERLANDS JOURNAL OF LEGAL PHILOSOPHY 294 (2012)

    "Frame Semantics and the ‘Internal Point of View,’"  Current Legal Issues Colloquium: Law and Language (Michael Freeman & Fiona Smith eds. Oxford University Press), February 2013

    Citizens Disunited, 27 GA. STATE UNIV. L. REV. 1133 (2011) (Symposium on Citizens United v. Federal Elect. Comm., 130 S. Ct.876 (2010)

    Reimagining Democracy for Social Individuals, 46 ZYGON: JOURNAL OF RELIGION AND SCIENCE 224 (2011)

    John Roberts’s Formalist Nightmare, 63 U. MIAMI L. REV. 549 (2009)

    Re-Embodying Law, 58 MERCER L. REV. 869 (2007) (Symposium: Using Metaphor in Legal Analysis and Communication).

    What Makes Modernity Late? 1 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LAW IN CONTEXT 61 (2005) (inaugural issue).

    Melville, Slavery, and the Failure of the Judicial Process, 25 CARDOZO L. REV. 2471 (2004) (Symposium on the 20th Anniversary of Richard Weisberg’s Failure of the Word).

    Brown as Icon, 50 WAYNE L. REV. 849 (2004) (ABA Symposium to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education).

    When Self-Governance Is a Game, 67 BROOKLYN L. REV. 1171 (2002) (Cognitive Legal Studies: Cate¬gorization and Imagination in the Mind of the Law—A Symposium in Celebration of the Publication of A Clearing in the Forest).

    Making the Familiar Conventional Again, 99 MICH. L. REV. 1607 (2001) (review essay).

    What If Justice Scalia Took History and the Rule of Law Seriously?, 12 DUKE ENV’L LAW & POLICY FORUM 155 (2001) (Symposium on “Citizen Suits and the Future of Standing in the 21st Century: From Lujan to Laidlaw and Beyond”).

    The Next Century of Legal Thought?, 22 CARDOZO L. REV. 747 (2001) (Symposium on Duncan Kennedy’s A Critique of Adjudication).

    The “Power” Thing, 82 VA. L. REV. 721 (1996).
    A Clearing in the Forest, Vol. 10, No. 3, METAPHOR & SYMBOLIC ACTIVITY 223 (1995).

    Cursing the Darkness, 48 U. MIAMI L. REV. 1115 (1994) (comment symposium on the new poverty law scholarship).

    The Constitution of Conscience, 72 TEXAS L. REV. 1805 (1994) (symposium on Philip Bobbitt’s Consti¬tutional Interpretation).

    One Size Fits All, 72 TEXAS L. REV. 1857 (1994) (reply in same).

    Human Values in a Postmodern World, 6 YALE J. L. & HUMANITIES 233 (1994) (colloquy with Martha Nussbaum).

    Fast Food and False Friends in the Shopping Mall of Ideas, 64 U. COLO. L. REV. 965 (1993) (Rothgerber Conference).

    Confident, But Still Not Positive, 25 CONN. L. REV. 893 (1993) (commentary on Frederick Schauer’s “Constitutional Positivism”).

    For What It’s Worth, 26 LAW & SOCIETY REV. 789 (1992) (comment on presidential address).

    The Meaning of “Under Color of” Law, 91 MICH. L. REV. 323 (1992).

    Death Is the Mother of Metaphor, 105 HARV. L. REV. 745 (1992) (review essay).

    Foreword: On Building Houses, 69 TEXAS L. REV. 1595 (1991) (introduction to “Beyond Critique: Symposium on Law, Culture, and the Politics of Form”).

    An Upside/Down View of the Countermajoritarian Difficulty, 69 TEXAS L. REV. 1881 (1991) (contribution to same).

    Contingency and Community in Normative Practice, 139 U. PA. L. REV. 963 (1991) (contribution to “Symposium: The Critique of Normativity”).

    Without Privilege, 139 U. PA. L. REV. 1063 (1991) (reply to Radin and Michelman in same).

    Indeterminacy and Incommensurability in Constitutional Law, 78 CALIF. L. REV. 1441 (1990).

    Bull Durham and the Uses of Theory, 42 STAN. L. REV. 635 (1990).

    The Cognitive Dimension of the Agon Between Legal Power and Narrative Meaning, 87 MICH. L. REV. 2225 (1989) (contribution to “Symposium: Legal Storytelling”).

    Transcendental Nonsense, Metaphoric Reasoning, and the Cognitive Stakes for Law, 137 U. PA. L. REV. 1105 (1989).

    The Metaphor of Standing and the Problem of Self-Governance, 40 STAN. L. REV. 1371 (1988).

  • Social Science Research Network
  • Books

    A Clearing in the Forest (University of Chicago Press) July 2001

    This book presents the first systematic assessment of cognitive science’s implications for law. Recent findings about categorization and reasoning reveal the remarkably orderly, yet creative processes of human imagination. Cognitive science provides the tools to understand how real-world legal actors reason, opening a window on the imaginative, yet orderly mental processes that animate thinking and decision making among lawyers, judges, and lay persons.

    The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought (Cambridge University Press)

    According to, a "comprehensive collection of essays in multidisciplinary metaphor scholarship that was written in response to the growing interest among scholars and students from a variety of disciplines such as Linguistics Philosophy, Anthropology, Music, as well as Psychology. These essays explore the significance of metaphor in language, thought, culture, and artistic expression. There are five main themes of the book: the roots of metaphor, metaphor understanding, metaphor in language and culture, metaphor in reasoning and feeling, and metaphor in non-verbal expression. Contributors come from a variety of academic disciplines, including psychology, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, literature, education, music, and law." Professor Winter's contribution explores the role of metaphor in legal thought, including its pivotal role in the maintenance of governmental accountability central to the ideal of "a government of laws and not of men."

    Law and the Humanities: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press)

    According to, "Law and the Humanities: An Introduction brings together a distinguished group of scholars from law schools and an array of the disciplines in the humanities. Contributors come from the United States and abroad in recognition of the global reach of this field. This book is, at one and the same time, a stock taking both of different national traditions and of the various modes and subjects of law and humanities scholarship. It is also an effort to chart future directions for the field. By reviewing and analyzing existing scholarship and providing thematic content and distinctive arguments, it offers to its readers both a resource and a provocation. Thus, Law and the Humanities marks the maturation of this 'law and' enterprise and will spur its further development." This is the first book of its kind in the field. It is interdisciplinary. It is global.

    Professor Winter's chapter: Law, Culture, and Humility

    On Philosophy in American Law (Cambridge University Press) 2009 Contributor

    According to Cambridge University Press, this book gathers 38 leading scholars working in law and philosophy to provide focused and straightforward articulations of the role that philosophy might play at this juncture of American legal history. The volume marks the 75th anniversary of Karl Llewellyn's essay "On Philosophy in American Law," in which he rehearsed the broad development of American jurisprudence, diagnosed its contemporary failings, and then charted a productive path opened by the variegated scholarship that claimed to initiate a realistic approach to law and legal theory. The essays are written in the spirit of Llewellyn's article: they are succinct and direct arguments about the potential for bringing law and philosophy together.

    Law and Language: Current Legal Issues 2013 (eds. Michael Freeman and Fiona Smith) (Oxford University Press) 2013

    Law and Language, the fifteenth volume in the Current Legal Issues series, is based upon an annual colloquium held at University College London. Each year leading scholars from around the world gather to discuss the relationship between law and another discipline of thought. Each colloquium examines how the external discipline is conceived in legal thought and argument, how the law is pictured in that discipline, and analyses points of controversy in the use, and abuse, of extra-legal arguments within legal theory and practice. This volume offers an insight into the scholarship examining the relationship between language and the law. The issues examined in this book range from problems of interpretation and beyond to the difficulties of legal translation, the role of language and the law in a variety of literary works; and considers the interrelation between language and the law in a variety of contexts, including criminal law, contract law, family law, human rights law, and EU law. Professor Winter's chapter - Frame Semantics and the ‘Internal Point of View' - examines the classic debate in jurisprudence between Hart's positivism and Dworkin's version of natural law in light of the recent developments in cognitive science.

  • Accomplishments
    • Steven Winter

      presented his paper “‘Who’ or ‘What’ Is the Rule of Law” at Wayne State University's Brown Bag Series in September 2020.

    • Steven Winterpresented his paper “Medieval Jewish Governance and the Meaning of Democracy” at the Conference on Jewish Law in Comparative Context at Touro Law Center in New York in September 2020.