Sam Bray, '05: Received the Federalist Society's Joseph Story Award

Sam Bray receives Story (Bator) Award

Many congratulations to our co-blogger and my dear friend Sam Bray, who just received the Federalist Society's Joseph Story Award, which is the successor to the Paul M. Bator Award, "given annually to a young academic (40 and under) who has demonstrated excellence in legal scholarship, a commitment to teaching, a concern for students, and who has made significant public impact in a manner that advances the rule of law in a free society."

Sam joins a long list of illustrious Story/Bator award receipients, including co-bloggers Randy Barnett (1991), Paul Cassell (1998), Eugene Volokh (1999), Jonathan Adler (2004), Orin Kerr (2007), Sai Prakash (2008), Eugene Kontorovich (2012), and Nita Farahany (2013). (Also me, 2017.) By my count, the Volokh Conspiracy sports many more recipients of the award (maybe three times as many?) as any law school.

I'm delighted about this, and also delighted to reproduce Sam's acceptance speech from last night:

I am honored and grateful to receive the Joseph Story Award.

One reason is the august company of previous recipients. I won't regale you with their names, except to say, for all the Harvard Law Students here, that one former recipient is now your dean.

Another reason I am honored is the jurist for whom the award is named. Joseph Story was the second most important Supreme Court justice on the Marshall Court. I expect we all know the most important justice on the Marshall Court. Story was famous not only for his opinions, but also for his treatises, what we would now call his legal scholarship. He wrote the most important treatise of the century in four fields—constitutional law, equity, bailments, and conflicts of law. No one else is even close. Three of those subjects are ones I've taught, so I've felt haunted by the ghost of Joseph Story for some time. And there have been times when I've worked on equity, and I've been sure that Joseph Story was wrong, and I've eventually come around to the view that one of us was wrong, and it was not Joseph Story.

Finally, I'm honored to receive this award because it is from the Federalist Society. When I was a law student at the University of Chicago, the Federalist Society was a critical part of the intellectual life of the school and of my legal education. What made the Federalist Society so distinctive was its commitment to debate, to the critical discussion of legal and constitutional ideas that are foundational for our republic. I wish I could say that this commitment to robust debate, though distinctive when I was a law student, has now been so widely embraced that the Federalist Society is no longer needed. I cannot say that.

Indeed, you who are in this room know the state of play better than anyone. You know, with the exquisite sensibility of a courtier in the Versailles of Louis XIV, the things that are not said, the delicate dances, the debates that cannot be had. And you are constantly negotiating the demands of courtesy and the demands of free and open debate.