Deborah Hellman

  • David Lurton Massee, Jr., Professor of Law
  • F. Palmer Weber Research Professor of Civil Liberties and Human Rights
  • Director, Center for Law & Philosophy

Deborah Hellman joined the Law School in 2012 after serving on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law since 1994. She is the director of UVA Law’s Center for Law & Philosophy.

There are two main strands to Hellman’s work. The first focus is on equal protection law and its philosophical justification. She is the author of When Is Discrimination Wrong? (Harvard University Press, 2008) and co-editor of The Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law (Oxford University Press, 2013) and several articles related to equal protection. The second strand focuses on the relationship between money and legal rights. This includes articles on campaign finance law, bribery and corruption, each of which explore and challenge the normative foundations of current doctrine. Her article "A Theory of Bribery" won the 2019 Fred Berger Memorial Prize (for philosophy of law) from the American Philosophical Association. In 2020 she won the Association of American Law Schools Section on Jurisprudence Article Award for “Measuring Algorithmic Fairness,” which was published in the Virginia Law Review. 

In addition, she writes about the obligations of professional roles, especially in the context of clinical medical research. She teaches constitutional law, legal theory and contracts, as well as advanced classes and seminars on questions related to these fields (Discrimination Theory, Profiling and Contract Theory, for example). 

Hellman was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2005-06) and the Eugene P. Beard Faculty Fellow in Ethics at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University (2004-05). She was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers in 1999 and was a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2007-08 and at the University of Virginia in the fall of 2011.

Scholarship Profile: Drilling Down on Discrimination and Equality (Virginia Journal 2013)


  • J.D.
    Harvard Law School
  • M.A.
    Columbia University
  • B.A.
    Dartmouth College


Big Data and Compounding Injustice, Journal of Moral Philosophy (2023).

Works in Progress


Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law (edited with Sophia Moreau), Oxford University Press (2013).
When Is Discrimination Wrong?, Harvard University Press (2008).

Book Chapters

The Epistemic Commitments of Nondiscrimination, in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law Volume 4, Oxford University Press (2022).
Understanding Bribery, in The Palgrave Handbook of Applied Ethics and the Criminal Law, Palgrave Macmillan, 147–163 (2019).
Discrimination and Social Meaning, in The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Discrimination, Routledge, 97–107 (2018).
Indirect Discrimination and the Duty to Avoid Compounding Injustice, in Foundations of Indirect Discrimination Law, Hart, 105–121 (2018).
Liberty, Equality, Bribery, and Self-Government: Reframing the Campaign Finance Debate, in Democracy by the People: Reforming Campaign Finance in America, Cambridge University Press, 58–73 (2018).
Racial Profiling and the Meaning of Racial Categories, in Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, Wiley, 232–243 (2014).
An Epistemic Defense of Precedent, in Precedent in the United States Supreme Court, Springer, 63–76 (2013).
Equality and Unconstitutional Discrimination, in Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law, Oxford University Press, 51–70 (2013).
Discrimination, Concept of, in Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, Elsevier, 833 (2 ed. 2012).
Trials on Trial, in Philosophical Dimensions of Public Policy , Transaction Publishers, 265 (2002).

Articles & Reviews

The Algorithmic Leviathan: Arbitrariness, Fairness, and Opportunity in Algorithmic Decision Making Systems (with Kathleen Creek), Canadian Journal of Philosophy 1–18 (2022).
Rationing and Disability: The Civil Rights and Wrongs of State Triage Protocols (with Kate M. Nicholson), 78 Washington and Lee Law Review 1207 (2021).
Personal Responsibility in an Unjust World: A Reply to Eidelson, 1 The American Journal of Law and Equality 277–285 (2021).
Measuring Algorithmic Fairness, 106 Virginia Law Review 811–866 (2020).
Opioid Prescribing and the Ethical Duty to Do No Harm (with Kate M. Nicholson), 46 American Journal of Law & Medicine 297–310 (2020).
Sex, Causation, and Algorithms: Equal Protection in the Age of Machine Learning, 98 Washington University Law Review 481–523 (2020).
The Epistemic Function of Fusing Equal Protection and Due Process, 28 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 383–405 (2019).
Review of Khaitan, A Theory of Discrimination Law (reviewing Tarunabh Khaitan, A Theory of Discrimination Law) 128 Ethics 473–478 (2018).
A Theory of Bribery, 38 Cardozo Law Review 1947–1992 (2017).
Defending Two Concepts of Discrimination: A Reply to Simons, 102 Virginia Law Review Online 113–119 (2016).
Resurrecting the Neglected Liberty of Self Government, 164 University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online 233–239 (2016).
Special Issue on Campaign Finance: Introduction: Problems in the Existing Jurisprudence (with David Schultz), 164 University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online 207–214 (2016).
Two Concepts of Discrimination, 102 Virginia Law Review 895–952 (2016).
Unintended Implications, 101 Virginia Law Review 1105–1110 (2015).
Review of Kasper Lippert Rasmussen, Born Free and Equal?: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Nature of Discrimination (reviewing Kasper Lippert Rasmussen, Born Free and Equal?: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Nature of Discrimination) Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2014).
Equal Protection in the Key of Respect, 123 Yale Law Journal 3036–3062 (2014).
Defining Corruption and Constitutionalizing Democracy, 111 Michigan Law Review 1385–1422 (2013).
Politics and Terrorism: What Happens When Money Is Speech?, 98 Virginia Law Review in Brief 71–75 (2012).
Money and Rights, 35 NYU Review of Law & Social Change 527–549 (2011).
Money Talks but It Isn't Speech, 95 Minnesota Law Review 953–1002 (2011).
Prosecuting Doctors for Trusting Patients, 16 George Mason University Law Review 701–746 (2009).
Willfully Blind for Good Reason, 3 Criminal Law & Philosophy 301–316 (2009).
Discrimination: When Is It Morally Wrong and Why?, Dartmouth Law Journal 3–6 (2006).
Physicians as Researchers: Difficulties with the "Similarity Position" (with Robert Wachbroit & David Wasserman), American Journal of Bioethics 57–59 (2006).
What Money Can and Cannot Buy, 14 The Good Society 26–29 (2005).
What Makes Genetic Discrimination Exceptional, 29 American Journal of Law & Medicine 77–116 (2003).
The Expressive Dimension of Equal Protection, 85 Minnesota Law Review 1–70 (2000).
Trials on Trial, Report from the Institute for Philosophy & Public Policy 13–18 (1998).
Two Types of Discrimination: The Familiar and the Forgotten, 86 California Law Review 315–362 (1998).
Is Actuarially Fair Insurance Pricing Actually Fair? A Case Study in Insuring Battered Women, 32 Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Law Review 355–412 (1997).
The Importance of Appearing Principled, 37 Arizona Law Review 1107–1152 (1995).
Of Mice But Not Men: Problems of the Randomized Clinical Trial, 324 New England Journal of Medicine 1585–1589 (1991).

Reports & Datasets

Op-Eds, Blogs, Shorter Works

We Must Not Leave the Vulnerable Out if We Have Health Care Rations (with Kate Nicholson), The Hill (December 1, 2020).
Bribery, Crowdfunding, and the Strange Case of Senator Susan Collins (with Stuart Green), The Atlantic (September 14, 2018).
Letter to the Editor, 31 Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics 182 (2003).

Current Courses

All Courses

Constitutional Law
Profiling (Seminar)
Money and Rights (Seminar)
Constitutional Law II: The Law and Theory of Equal Protection
Conceptions of Professional Role (Seminar)




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