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


Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law (editor with Sophia Moreau) (Oxford University Press, 2013).

When Is Discrimination Wrong? (Harvard University Press, 2008).

Articles and Book Chapters:

“Personal Responsibility in an Unjust World: A Reply to Eidelson,”  Am. J. of L. & Equality (forthcoming).

“The Algorithmic Leviathan: Arbitrariness, Fairness, and Opportunity in Algorithmic Decision Making Systems” (with Kathleen Creel).

“Big Data and Compounding Injustice,” J. Moral Phil. (2021).

"Opioid Prescribing and the Ethical Duty to Do No Harm" (with Kate Nicholson), 46 Am. J.L. & Med. __ (forthcoming). SSRN

"Rationing and Disability in a State of Crisis," (with Kate Nicholson) (2020)

"The Epistemic Function of Fusing Equal Protection and Due Process," Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. (forthcoming).

"Measuring Algorithmic Fairness," 106 Va. L. Rev. 811 (2020). 
SSRN | Article

“Discrimination and Social Meaning,” in Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, ed., The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Discrimination 97 

“Indirect Discrimination and the Duty to Avoid Compounding Injustice,” in Hugh Collins & Tarunabh Khaitan, eds., Foundations of Indirect Discrimination Law 105 (Hart, 2018). 

"Liberty, Equality, Bribery, and Self-Government: Reframing the Campaign Finance Debate" in Kuhner & Mazo, eds., Democracy by the People: Reforming Campaign Finance in America (2018, Cambridge University Press).

“A Theory of Bribery,” 38 Cardozo L. Rev. 1947 (2017). 
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

Review of Khaitan, Tarunabh. A Theory of Discrimination Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, Ethics, Vol. 128, no. 2 (January, 2018).

“Defending Two Concepts of Discrimination: A Reply to Simons,” 102 Va. L. Rev. Online 113 (2016).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Resurrecting the Neglected Liberty of Self-Government,” 164 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 233 (2016).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Special Issue on Campaign Finance: Introduction: Problems in the Existing Jurisprudence” (with David Schultz), 164 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 207 (2016).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Two Concepts of Discrimination,” 102 Va. L. Rev. 895 (2016).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"Unintended Implications," 101 Va. L. Rev. 1105 (2015) (Commentary on article by John Mikhail).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Equal Protection in the Key of Respect," 123 Yale L. J. 3036 (2014) (symposium issue). 

“Political Participation: A Hybrid Sphere,” 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. Online 28 (2014).

"Racial Profiling and the Meaning of Racial Categories," in Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, 2nd edition, Andrew Cohen and Christopher Wellman, editors, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

Review of Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Born Free and Equal?: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Nature of Discrimination (2014), Notre Dame Phil. Rev., May 29, 2014.

“Defining Corruption and Constitutionalizing Democracy,” 111 Mich. L. Rev. 1385 (2013).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“An Epistemic Defense of Precedent,” in Christopher J. Peters, ed., Precedent in the United States Supreme Court 63 (Springer 2013).

“Equality and Unconstitutional Discrimination,” in Deborah Hellman & Sophia Moreau, eds., Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law 51 (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law (editor with Sophia Moreau) (Oxford University Press, 2013).

“Racial Profiling and the Meaning of Racial Categories,” in Andrew I. Cohen & Christopher Heath Wellman, eds., Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics 232 (Wiley 2d ed. 2013).

“Comments on Michel Rosenfeld’s The Identity of the Constitutional Subject: Selfhood, Citizenship, Culture, and Community,” 33 Cardozo L. Rev. 1839 (2012).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Discrimination, Concept of” in Ruth Chadwick, ed., Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics 833 (Elsevier, 2d ed. 2012).

“Politics and Terrorism: What Happens When Money Is Speech?,” 98 Va. L. Rev. In Brief71 (2012).

“Money and Rights,” 35 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 527 (2011).

"Money Talks But It Isn’t Speech," 95 Minn. L. Rev. 953 (2011). 

"Willfully Blind for Good Reason," 3 Crim. L. & Phil. 301 (2009).

"Prosecuting Doctors for Trusting Patients," 16 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 701 (2009). 

"Pushing Drugs or Pushing the Envelope: The Prosecution of Doctors in Connection with Over-Prescribing of Opium-Based Drugs," Phil.& Pub. Pol’y Q., Winter/Spring 2008, at 7. 

“Discrimination: When Is It Morally Wrong and Why?,” Dartmouth L.J., Fall 2006, at 3.

“Physicians as Researchers: Difficulties with the ‘Similarity Position,’” (with David Wasserman and Robert Wachbroit), Am. J. Bioethics, July/Aug. 2006, at 57.

“What Money Can and Cannot Buy,” 14 nos. 1-2 Good Soc’y 26 (2005).

"What Makes Genetic Discrimination Exceptional?," 29 Am. J.L. & Med. 77 (2003). 

"Evidence, Belief and Action: The Failure of Equipoise to Resolve the Ethical Tension in the Randomized Clinical Trial," 30 J.L. Med. & Ethics 375 (2002).

"Judging By Appearances: Professional Ethics, Expressive Government and the Moral Significance of How Things Seem," 60 Md. L. Rev. 653 (2001). 

"The Expressive Dimension of Equal Protection," 85 Minn. L. Rev. 1 (2000). 

"Two Types of Discrimination: The Familiar and the Forgotten," 86 Cal. L. Rev. 315 (1998).

“Trials on Trial,” Rep. Inst. Phil. & Pub. Pol’y, Winter-Spring 1998, at 13; reprinted in Verna A. Gehring & William A. Galston, eds., Philosophical Dimensions of Public Policy 265 (Transaction Publishers, 2002).

"Is Actuarially Fair Insurance Pricing Actually Fair?: A Case Study in Insuring Battered Women," Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 355 (1997).

"The Importance of Appearing Principled," 37 Ariz. L. Rev. 1107 (1995).

"Of Mice But Not Men: Problems of the Randomized Clinical Trial," (with Samuel Hellman), 324 New Eng. J. Med. 1585 (1991).

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)




Faculty in the News