Associate Professor of Law
Professor Merritt McAlister teaches and writes in the areas of federal courts, judicial decisionmaking, constitutional law, and court administration. Her scholarship focuses on how institutional design and court processes disadvantage and marginalize vulnerable litigants in the federal appellate court system. She is also interested in issues of court reform, focused on the lower federal courts. McAlister’s work has been published in or is forthcoming in top journals, including the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, the Northwestern University Law Review, and the Georgetown Law Journal. Her 2020 article, “Downright Indifference”: Examining Unpublished Decisions in the Federal Courts of Appeals, received the annual prize from the AALS Federal Courts Section for the best paper on federal courts by an untenured professor.
Prior to joining the University of Florida law faculty, McAlister was a partner in the national appellate practice group of King & Spalding. While in private practice, she was elected to the American Law Institute, named a Georgia Super Lawyer, and recognized for her pro bono work on behalf of prisoners and on LGBT civil rights issues.
McAlister clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge R. Lanier Anderson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She received her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Rice University and her law degree summa cum laude from the University of Georgia School of Law, where she served as Executive Articles Editor of the Georgia Law Review.
J.D., University of Georgia School of Law
B.A. in English and Women and Gender Studies, Rice University
- This course will focus on the difficult issues inherent in federal jurisdiction. These include the constitutional and other issues raised by federal question and diversity jurisdiction, supplemental jurisdiction, the Erie Doctrine, abstention, and the federal common law.
- Analysis of a civil lawsuit from commencement through trial, including consideration of jurisdiction, venue, pleading, motions, discovery, and joinder of parties and of claims; right to trial by jury, selection and instruction of jury, respective roles of judge, jury, and lawyer; trial and post-trial motions; judgments.
- This course examines the work of the federal courts and their unique and complex role in our constitutional system. It touches upon both the essential procedural and substantive features of federal practice. The course’s core focus is on the tension among three competing constitutional values: (1) the separation between the judiciary and the executive and the legislative branches of government; (2) the balance between federal and state power (especially the balance between federal and state court power); and (3) the protection and redressability of individual rights. The course will address one fundamental question in both the abstract and the particular: What is the proper role of federal courts in our constitutional system of divided government?
- Introduction to United States Constitutional Law. Topics include judicial enforcement of the Constitution to preserve individual liberties; judicial review; separation of powers; structure and powers of the federal government; and federalism.
- Some say the "law" answers cases. This course asks whether that is always true; or, rather, whether the judicial process involves features beyond the application of law to facts. Consider, for example, the dynamics of decisionmaking by multimember appellate courts. Does it matter who is assigned a case or will the majority bargain to the same outcome, regardless? How might other pressures—e.g., caseload and court structure—influence decisionmaking? Does the identity, ideology, or experience of a judge matter? If it does, should that influence judicial selection? This course will examine these and other questions like them. In law school, these issues often receive consideration only at the margins, as you focus on learning doctrinal rules. In our course, however, the behavior of judges and how judges affect legal outcomes and shape legal institutions is the central focus.
- Rebuilding the Federal Circuit Courts, 116 Nw. U.L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2022)
- Missing Decisions, 169 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1101 (2021)
- “Downright Indifference”: Examining Unpublished Decisions in the Federal Courts of Appeals, 118 Mich. L. Rev. 533 (2020)
- Measuring How Stock Ownership Affects Which Judges (and Justices) Hear Cases, 103 Geo. L.J. 1163 (2015), with James M. Anderson and Eric Helland
- Note, The Swift, Silent Sword Hiding in the (Defense) Attorney’s Arsenal: The Efficacy of Georgia’s New Offer of Judgment Provision as Procedural Tort Reform, 40 Ga. L. Rev. 995 (2006)