Constitutional Law Expert Justin Driver to Join Faculty

Justin Driver, a rising star in constitutional law and theory who does extensive work in legal issues related to race, will join the Law School faculty in July, news his soon-to-be colleagues called a “professorial hiring coup.”

Driver, now a Professor at the University of Texas School of Law, impressed the Law School community as a Visiting Assistant Professor in autumn 2012. He also has visited at Harvard Law School, his alma mater, and the University of Virginia Law School. This winter and spring he is teaching at Stanford Law School before moving to Chicago.

“I am absolutely delighted that Justin is joining our faculty,” Dean Michael Schill said.  “Our appointments committee identified him as one of the very best legal scholars of his generation. When he visited here, we also learned that he is a great teacher and intellectual. He will fit in perfectly at the Law School.”

Professor Jonathan Masur, Deputy Dean, agreed. Masur and Professors Lee Fennell and Richard McAdams served on the appointments committee that helped to recruit Driver. “He is already highly regarded, and yet his best work is almost surely in front of him,” Masur said. “Justin is also a fabulous and beloved teacher who will be a great mentor to students. Hiring him makes the Law School stronger along every conceivable dimension.” 

Fennell added that Driver has a “remarkable eye for interesting topics” and is “a fantastic institutional citizen.” McAdams called him an “exciting young voice in American constitutional law and the legal history of race.”

Professor Lior Strahilevitz took to Twitter to celebrate Driver’s hiring, which he called “a professorial hiring coup.”

Driver said the enthusiasm is mutual.

“I am simply thrilled to join this vibrant intellectual community,” Driver said. “The law students are unusually engaged, incisive, and rigorous in their thinking. The faculty's strong culture of interaction and collaboration, along with its genuine connections to the wider university, enable the law school to occupy an exalted position within legal academia.” 

Driver said his work “often takes a historically inflected approach to examining constitutional law.” Much of his scholarship scrutinizes the Supreme Court's ability to issue decisions that clash with majoritarian views. His most important work to date might be “The Consensus Constitution,” which critiques the notion that the Supreme Court almost always interprets the Constitution in a way that reflects the views of the American people. It was published in the Texas Law Review in 2011. In “Recognizing Race,” published in the Columbia Law Review in 2012, Driver examined the question of when judges should and should not identify the race of individuals in a case while writing opinions. Recently, he was awarded the Cromwell Article Prize from the American Society for Legal History for “The Constitutional Conservatism of the Warren Court,” which appeared in the California Law Review in 2012.  His most recent scholarly writings are slated to appear in the University of Chicago Law Review and the Yale Law Journal.  

Driver writes for the popular press, as well; his work regularly appears in The New Republic, where he is a contributing editor, and he has been published on Slate and in The Washington Post.

He earned his JD at Harvard Law in 2004, where he held various leadership positions on the Harvard Law Review. Before law school, he earned a Master of Studies in Modern History as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University’s Magdalen College. He holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Duke University and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from Brown University.

He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer, and Judge Merrick B. Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He spent two years as an associate at Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C.

Driver was at the Law School just last week, presenting at the Crime in Law and Literature Conference. His paper looked at Justice Clarence Thomas’ relationship to Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of Richard Wright’s Native Son.

Professor Martha Nussbaum, one of the conference’s organizers, said she is “extremely happy that Justin will be joining us. He is a wonderful scholar and a terrific teacher, and he will be a lovely presence in our interdisciplinary efforts.”