Stephen Lewis Wasby

March 16, 1937August 2, 2021

Stephen L. Wasby, a resident of Eastham, Massachusetts, died on August 2, 2021. He was professor emeritus of political science at the University of Albany – SUNY. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 16, 1937, the son of Milton Charles Wasby and Pauline Bunshaft Wasby, and grew up in Belmont. He graduated from Belmont High School and received his B.A. from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, from which his father had graduated. A “late rebellion” led him to graduate school rather than to a law degree, and he received his M.A. (1961) and Ph.D. (1962) in political science from the University of Oregon. The law was nonetheless to be the focus of his long, active professional life, during which he held a Russell Sage Post-Doctoral Residency in Law and Social Science at the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1969-1970; taught and wrote about the legal process; and served as the director of the Law and Social Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation in 1978-1979. He began his teaching career at Southeast Missouri State college and Moorhead (Minn.) State College. After serving as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, working for Rep. John Moss (D-CA) and Ralph Yarborough (D-TX), he taught at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale from 1966 until 1978. In his twenty years at the University at Albany, from which he retired in 1999, he taught about the judicial process, served formally and informally as prelaw advisor, and instructed graduate students from several departments about writing dissertation proposals. Steve served as a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Secretary of the Navy Fellow at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, and he taught Canadian students about American courts as visiting professor of law at University of Victoria (B.C.) and as Bissell-Fulbright Professor of Canadian American Relations at University of Toronto. He lectured frequently at other universities and served as the Fiscus Lecturer at Skidmore College and as the Dubach Visiting Chair at Oregon State University. After he moved to Cape Cod, for several years he was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. A prolific writer, Steve was author of many articles in professional journals and law reviews and was author, co-author, or editor of more than a dozen books, including The Supreme Court in the Federal Judicial System and Race Relations Litigation in an Age of Complexity. His last book, published in April 2018, was Borrowed Judges: Visitors in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. He was both sad and glad to have been able to edit for publication after their deaths, books by his Skidmore College junior colleague Ronald Fiscus, his graduate school friend Charles Sheldon, and his Vanderbilt Law School colleague Robert Belton. With a mission to help people understand how the courts function, he devoted his greatest attention-and much of his published scholarship-to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was proud that lawyer friends felt he had contributed more through his writing than he would have as a lawyer. His professional activities were many. He was proud of having advocated for civil liberties; for helping train police and teaching prospective Navy officers; and, particularly, for serving as a mentor to junior faculty and advanced graduate students. Steve served on the Faculty Senates at both SIU and the University at Albany, SIU’s Ombudsman Review Panel, and UAlbany’s Institutional Review Board, and at Albany he chaired the Graduate Academic Council Committee on Academic Standing. He was the 1973 program chair of the Midwest Political Science Association and served on its council and he was the president of the New York State Political Science Association. He was a member of the editorial boards of American Politics Quarterly, Law and Society Review, Polity, Western Legal History, and Communal Societies. For over 35 years, he was involved in the Justice System Journal where he served as its first Review Editor, for more than ten years as Legal Notes Editor, and as its Editor-in-Chief from 2005 through 2007. Locally he long served on-and chaired-the Zoning Board of Appeals in the Town of Eastham; served on the Charter Review Committee; and chaired a Task Force on Animal Regulations. He was a lover of baroque music and of the seacoast and was a walker of beaches, particularly in his favorite places, Cape Cod and the Oregon coast. Another pastime was watching trains; his New York license plate was TRNWTCHR. Combining pleasure with experience, he served on, and directed, the Heritage Grants Committee of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS). He is survived by his brother Roger (Sherry Herrera), of Fullerton, CA, son David (Murielle) on Nashville, TN and their children, Lauren, Ben, and Danny, and three great grandchildren; his daughter Rev. Karen Johnston, his son Robert Johnston, and a special granddaughter, Hannah Daly of Silverton, Oregon. His is also survived by multiple cats and by the many dog friends for whom he carried treats. Anyone wishing to make a contribution in Steve’s memory may do so to the Wasby-Johnson Award Program at the Department of Sociology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.


  • Memorial Service

    Friday, November 12, 2021


Stephen Lewis Wasby

have a memory or condolence to add?

Arthur Hellman

November 1, 2021

No scholar has contributed more than Steve to our understanding of how federal appellate judges decide cases. Steve’s published studies of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – based, as they were, on extended interviews with judges and access to internal court memoranda – provide unique insight into the actual workings of an important appellate court. On a more personal note, Steve was a good friend and a collaborator on many projects. There was no better person to critique a manuscript and suggest ways of improving it. I will miss him.

Marshall Carter-Tripp

October 26, 2021

I am deeply saddened to learn of Stephen's passing. I met him while I was teaching Judicial Process and he was a fellow in the National Science Foundation's Law and Social Sciences program. We remained friends and colleagues thereafter, and corresponded about numerous matters, including the loss of our mutual friend, Warren Weinstein (killed by a USG drone "mistake" in 2015). He paid a visit to El Paso about four years ago and we had a delightful time together as he visited former colleagues. Stephen's sense of justice and his sense of humor brightened my life and I will always remember him that way.


September 27, 2021

I was surprised to find Steve's obituary this morning after realizing I had a few unreturned emails since July, uncharacteristically of course. I was sad, as I had no idea he'd been sick or failing. His last email, he'd just had a fender-bender and aside from the usual headaches that such an incident brings about, seemed himself. I met Steve during my masters program at Bridgewater, where he'd been invited to guest lecture. Having previously been a student at UAlbany, we ended up chatting after class about mutual connections and how I'd ended up in MA. From there, I stayed in contact with Steve about various career aspirations, political constructs and his return to Bridgewater. I had visited him in Eastham, twice, most recently last summer with my partner, John. He was always candid, intelligent, excited about his new "train trip" or ongoings with one of this boards. Steve was always encouraging me to advocate for myself and demanding that I think "bigger." I appreciated his knowledge far beyond my own, and his love of animals. I was so glad to see that someone here delivered groceries on the day of his death, knowing he wasn't entirely alone at the end. I will fondly think of "Mr. Wasby" as a mentor and friend. Rest in Peace.

Don Inbody

September 8, 2021

Ah, Steve. You and I met while we were on the faculty at the Naval Academy and you never let go. Your relentless editing of my writing led to better results. A good friend, too, you always asked how we were doing and we hosted you on several occasions. And, you loved our dogs as much as we did, always bringing treats for them. Every letter, card, or email ended with a query about how the dogs were doing and asked us to pet them for you.

Steve, we are forever grateful for your friendship.

Sharon VECSEY-Minor

September 5, 2021

Steve was one of the most genuine and intelligent people I have met along the way! He was the first person to welcome me to Limerick Way when I moved there in 2002. He was collegial and engaging in matters of the neighborhood and the community at large. I took on the battle against NStar’s vegetation management project (strip clearing and chemical management) and he was right there to provide guidance through a series of town meetings. While he is clearly an accomplished individual, I will remember him as compassionate! My best regards to his family.

Sharon Vecsey-Minor

Stefanie Lindquist

September 2, 2021

I have known Steve for almost thirty years. As a young graduate student at South Carolina, I worked on issues involving the US Court of Appeals. Of course, Steve was a leading scholar in this field and he and I frequently corresponded on scholarly issues, met for lunch or a beer at conferences, and otherwise were good friends and colleagues since 1996! Steve was unfailingly loyal in his friendships, and I am grateful that I was not an exception to that. He believed in hard work and attention to detail, and he taught me the value of those qualities each time he commented on my work. I am heartbroken that I did not see Steve's last email to me in the midst of 2020--I was in Egypt and lost track. I so wish I had had one last conversation with Steve. He was a huge presence, a powerful intellect, and a good good friend. Steve, we will miss you.

Stephen Wagner

August 16, 2021

August 16
I was surprised and saddened to learn only about two hours ago of Stephen Wasby's death. I'm quite sure we never met in person, but in the last few years we've corresponded often by email in connection with the Bridge Line Historical Society, an all-volunteer group focused on the Delaware & Hudson. The D&H was formed in the early 1800's to build a canal to carry anthracite coal from northeastern Pennsylvania to the Hudson River for shipment to New York City. It became a railroad serving not just PA and NY but also Vermont and part of Quebec. I've written for its monthly Bulletin for years. "Stephen from Cape Cod" read what I wrote closely. When I made an error in fact, word choice or punctuation we often wrote me about it. I didn't mind; he was often right. We did disagree with some humor on certain matters of punctuation and style. I encouraged him to do some writing for that publication; he did. Unfortunately, we never got to travel together to BLHS functions in "D&H country".

We also exchanged many memories and thoughts on politics, public policy, history, the law, religion and other matters. Unlike him, I've never been a professor. But I also went to a college in Ohio for my bachelor's degree, at Oberlin. Later I taught high school students for 20 years, earned graduate degrees while doing so (after also getting my Bachelor's degree in Ohio, at Oberlin), and then worked for 30 years for professors and students at Harvard Law School. So we had plenty to discuss.

I will really miss his friendship, skill, knowledge, wisdom, idealism and good humor.

"Stephen from Maynard" (originally from Philadelphia, living in Mass. since 1968)

John Massaro

August 14, 2021

I met Steve Wasby over fifty years ago when he was my academic mentor at Southern Illinois University where I was a young, naive, sadly inexperienced, graduate assistant in politics. He scared the hell out of me with his pronounced and unqualified insistence on my best efforts at all times. I chafed at that seemingly tight chain at times but soon realized that the same ferocity that drove him to point out my academic flaws and weaknesses more than doubled itself when he defended or otherwise supported my work. Through the years that followed both professionally and in friendship, I remain today thankful that he was in my life. John Massaro

Elisabeth Conerly

August 10, 2021

I first met Steve about a decade ago when he came to visit our Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Murphy & Zeke, for whom he always had a treat, sometimes pulling off the road in his VW wagon to stop and deliver. We enjoyed many fascinating conversations about town politics, railways, colleges, education, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and pets and a seemingly endless discussion of what tree to plant in the cul de sac and why! :) We shared a love of lobster and good cheese and red wine, as well as all things erudite. Never at a loss for topics of conversation, I fondly remember his explaining town politics to me as I weeded an entire walkway, one September, and a more pointed explanation(mine) about why his leftover spareribs were not appropriate treats for my dogs(after having served them). Within our wonderful neighborhood Steve was always a learned, kind and sometimes curious addition to our gatherings, with the glint of intelligence in his eye and quick quips offered. I was among the last persons with whom Steve spoke, having delivered his groceries on Monday, August 2nd, and was able to assure him that his brilliant mind was "in fine fettle", even as his body betrayed him. I miss his wry wit, friendship and candor, already. Rest in Peace, my friend.

David Root

August 9, 2021

Steve was a neighbor and friend. He was very helpful to us in many ways. Although he was a very private person and mostly kept to himself, he kept us informed of town issues and researched cost of several companies to call to hook up our water. He also was helpful on the committee we had formed of neighbors to apply to the town to make Limerick and Galway town roads.
Steve loved animals and would always stop to give our beloved dog Tucker a treat and a pat .
He was a very bright ,interesting man that we will surely miss and remember.