Paul Chen

Associate Professor

Current Courses

Fall 2022

  • PLSC 311 – Intro to Law and the Legal System
  • PLSC 415 – Civil Rights and Liberties

Winter 2023

  • PLSC 313 – Law, Courts, Politics, Society
  • PLSC 414 – Constitutional Law: Federalism

Spring 2023

  • PLSC 250 – American Political System
  • PLSC 314 – The US Supreme Court
  • PLSC 467 – Philosophical & Ethical Issues in Law


Professor Chen teaches courses on the U.S. legal system (PLSC 311), the relationship between law, courts, politics, and society (PLSC 313), the U.S. Supreme Court (PLSC 314), American constitutional law (PLSC 414/415), and legal philosophy (PLSC 467).  He also serves as one of two Law School Admissions Council-designated pre-law advisors at WWU.

He has published articles on Supreme Court decision-making, interest group litigation, and U.S. constitutional federalism, his main area of expertise, which he sums up as “the right to be different.”  His current research interests include integrating the political thought of Dutch-Calvinist Abraham Kuyper into contemporary public policy, examining theological bases for pluralism, and probing how exclusion is integral to pluralism and toleration.

Professor Chen is the grateful beneficiary of a “liberal education.”  After receiving a BA in English in 1990, he then completed degrees in law (JD), inter-cultural studies (MA), and political science (PhD) before coming to Western Washington University in 2002.  His long, meandering educational journey (which he advises students not to follow) included, besides studying his degree-related subjects, graduate coursework in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, ethics, and theology.  “You don’t need an education to know how to choose between good and bad,” he tells students.  “What education does, is help you know how to choose between good—and another good.”

Born in Taiwan, Professor Chen is fluent in conversational Mandarin.  He lives with his wife and son just outside the Bellingham city limits.  One of his favorite pastimes is watching movies, especially thought-provoking ones.  He sums up his worldview in three words: “EVERYTHING is connected.”

Research Interests

  • Law, Courts, Politics & Society; U.S. Constitutional Law; The Supreme Court

Areas of Specialty

American Politics

Curriculum Vitae:


Selected Publications


  • "Rethinking the Constitution-Treaty Relationship" (co-authored with Remy Z. Levin), International Journal of Constitutional Law 10:242-260 (2012)
  • "Medical Marijuana Policy and the Virtues of Federalism" (co-authored with J. Mitchell Pickerill), Publius: The Journal of Federalism 38(1): 22-56 (2008)
  • "The Informational Role of Amici Curiae Briefs in Gonzales v. Raich," Southern Illinois University Law Journal 31(2): 217-241 (2007)
  • "The Institutional Sources of State Success in Federalism Litigation before the Supreme Court,"Law and Policy 25(4): 455-472 (2003)

Book Chapters

  • "Federalism and Rights: A Neglected Relationship" in Neil C. McCabe, ed., Comparative Federalism in the Devolution Era (Lexington Books, 2002), pp. 392-425.