Karen Alter

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Karen Alter,
Born (1965-10-23) October 23, 1965 (age 51)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Cornell University
Notable work Establishing the Supremacy of European Law (2001), The European Court’s Political Power (2010), The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (2014), The Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication (2014); Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice (2015)
Website www.KarenJAlter.org
Institutions Northwestern University

Karen J. Alter is an American academic, well known for her interdisciplinary work on international law’s influence in international and domestic politics. Alter is a leading authority on comparative international courts[1] and the politics of international regime complexity.[2] Her early work focused on the European Court of Justice, a topic on which she published two books and many articles.[3] Karen Alter is a Guggenheim Fellow,[4] and the winner of a Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin.[5] Alter has a courtesy appointment at Northwestern Law School.[6] Fluent in French, Italian and German, Alter has conducted research throughout Europe, Africa and Latin America.

Alter is well known for integrating the study of international relations and law.[7][8] Although she never pursued a JD, Alter spent a year as an Emile Noel Fellow at Harvard Law School, and she has been a visiting scholar at Northwestern Law School and the American Bar Foundation.[9] Alter is a permanent visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, where she participates in the iCourts Center of Excellence,[10] and she is a frequent co-author with Laurence Helfer of Duke Law School. Alter is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,[11] and serves on the advisory board of PluriCourts,[12] and the editorial board of the journal International Organization and Law and Contemporary Problems.[11]

Early life[edit]

Karen Alter grew up in Los Angeles, where she attended Pacific Palisades High School (Class of 1983).[13] She attended Cornell University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, with distinction in all subjects, and worked with Peter J. Katzenstein.[6] Alter received her doctorate in political science at MIT (1996), where she worked with Suzanne Berger and Anne-Marie Slaughter.


Karen Alter began her career at Smith College (1996–2000), after which she moved to Northwestern University. She teaches courses at the graduate and undergraduate level, and on occasion at Northwestern Law School.[14] Alter has been a visiting faculty member at University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, American Academy, Northwestern Law School, Institute d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po), American Bar Foundation, Universität Bremen, Germany, Seikei University, Harvard Law School, and the European Union Center, Harvard University.[9]

Alter is also a frequent commentator on international relations. Her commentary has appeared in the Boston Globe[15] , CNN[16] , U.S. News & World Report[17] , the Chicago Tribune,[18] and the Huffington Post[19] .


Selected Bibliography[edit]


  • Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice (Oxford University Press, 2015) [20]
  • The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press, 2014) [21]
  • The Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication (with Cesare Romano and Yuval Shany, 2014) [22]
  • The European Court’s Political Power (Oxford University Press, 2010) [23]
  • Establishing the Supremacy of European Law: The Making of an International Rule of Law in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2001)[24]


  • "The Global Spread of European Style International Courts." West European Politics 35 (1): 135-154. 2012.
  • "The Multiple Roles of International Courts and Tribunals: Enforcement, Dispute Settlement, Constitutional and Administrative Review" in Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack, eds. International Law and International Relations: Synthesizing Insights from Interdisciplinary Scholarship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012: 345-370.
  • "The Evolving Transnational Legal Order." Annual Review of Law and Social Science. 7: 387-415. 2011.
  • "Nature or Nurture: Judicial Lawmaking in the European Court of Justice and the Andean Tribunal of Justice." With Laurence Helfer. International Organization 64 (4) 563-92. 2010.
  • “The European Court’s Political Power Across Time and Space” (translated into Romanian) 5 Revista Romana de Drept European. 2010.[25]
  • "Islands of Effective International Adjudication: Constructing an Intellectual Property Rule of Law in the Andean Community." With Laurence Helfer and Maria Florencia Guerzovich. American Journal of International Law 103 (1) 2009: 1-43
  • "The Politics of International Regime Complexity." With Sophie Meunier Perspective on Politics 7 (1) 13-24. 2009.
  • "Who are the Masters of the Treaty?: European Governments and the European Court of Justice." International Organization. 52 (1): 125-152.


  1. ^ "Comparative International Courts". faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  2. ^ "Cambridge Journals Online - Perspectives on Politics - Abstract - The Politics of International Regime Complexity". journals.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  3. ^ "The European Court of Justice's Political Power". faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  4. ^ "Karen J. Alter - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". gf.org. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  5. ^ "Karen Alter | American Academy in Berlin". americanacademy.de. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  6. ^ a b "Karen Alter, Research & Faculty: Northwestern University Law School". law.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  7. ^ Alter, Karen J.; Dehousse, Renaud; Vanburg, Georg (1 February 2002). "Law, Political Science and Legal Studies" (PDF). European Union Politics. 3 (1): 113–136. doi:10.1177/1465116502003001006. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Proceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law)". 99. March 30 – April 2, 2005: 138–141. JSTOR 25659991. 
  9. ^ a b "Curriculum Vitae of Karen Alter - Northwestern Scholars - SciVal Experts 4.6". scholars.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  10. ^ "Staff at iCourts – University of Copenhagen". jura.ku.dk. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  11. ^ a b "Research, Writing and Syllabi of Professor Karen J. Alter". karenjalter.org. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  12. ^ "People - PluriCourts - Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order". jus.uio.no. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  13. ^ "Karen Alter Hanson | Class of 1983 | Palisades High School". classmates.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  14. ^ "Department of Political Science Faculty of Law". faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  15. ^ "Boston.com / News / Rebuilding Iraq". boston.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  16. ^ "Opinion: Has Putin broken international law? - CNN.com". cnn.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  17. ^ "Karen Alter - US News". usnews.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  18. ^ "Iraq: Who lied? - Chicago Tribune". articles.chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  19. ^ "Karen J. Alter". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  20. ^ "The Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice - Karen J. Alter; Laurence R. Helfer - Oxford University Press". global.oup.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  21. ^ "The New Terrain Of International Law". newterrainofinternationallaw.org. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  22. ^ "The Oxford Handbook of International Adjudication - Cesare Romano; Karen J. Alter; Yuval Shany - Oxford University Press". global.oup.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  23. ^ "The European Court's Political Power - Paperback - Karen Alter - Oxford University Press". global.oup.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  24. ^ "Establishing the Supremacy of European Law - Paperback - Karen J. Alter - Oxford University Press". global.oup.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  25. ^ "The European Court's Political Power Across Time and Space by Karen J. Alter :: SSRN". papers.ssrn.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 

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