Jason S. Johnston

  • Blaine T. Phillips Distinguished Professor in Environmental Law
  • Director, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics

Law and economics expert Jason Scott Johnston joined the Virginia Law faculty in 2010 and is the Blaine T. Phillips Distinguished Professor in Environmental Law. He formerly served as the the Nicholas E. Chimicles Research Professor in Business Law and Regulation at Virginia Law, and the Robert G. Fuller, Jr. Professor of Law and director of the Program on Law, Environment and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Johnston’s scholarship has examined subjects ranging from natural resources law to torts and contracts. He has published dozens of articles in law journals, such as the Yale Law Journal, and in peer-reviewed economics journals, such as the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization. He is currently working on a book that critically analyzes the foundations of global warming law and policy, a series of articles on the economics of regulatory science and another series of articles on various aspects of the law and economics of consumer protection. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Law and Economics Association, on the National Science Foundation’s Law and Social Science grant review panel, and on the Board of the Searle Civil Justice Institute. He won Penn Law’s Robert A. Gorman Award for Teaching Excellence in 2003.

After earning his A.B. from Dartmouth College and both his J.D. and Ph.D. (economics) from the University of Michigan, Johnston clerked for Judge Gilbert S. Merritt on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He then taught at Vermont Law School and Vanderbilt Law School before joining Penn’s faculty. He has been a visiting professor or held fellowship appointments at Yale Law School, the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, the American Academy in Berlin and the Property and Environment Research Center.


  • Ph.D.
    University of Michigan
  • J.D.
    University of Michigan
  • A.B.
    Dartmouth College

Works in Progress


Climate Rationality: From Bias to Balance, Cambridge University Press (2021).

Book Chapters

The Precautionary Social Cost of Carbon, in Climate Rationality From Bias to Balance, Cambridge University Press, 468–502 (2021).
The EPA’s Conflicted “Science” on Fine Particle Mortality, in Scientocracy: The Tangled Web of Public Science and Public Policy, Cato Institute, 257–289 (2019).
Fire Suppression Policy, Weather, and Western Wildland Fire Trends (with Jonathan Klick), in Wildfire Policy: Law and Economics Perspectives, RFF Press, 158–177 (2012).
The Cost of Cartelization: The IPCC Process and the Crisis of Credibility in Climate Science, in Institutions and Incentives in Regulatory Science, Lexington Books, 17–54 (2012).
Is the Polluter Pays Principle Really Fundamental? An Economic Explanation of the Relative Unimportance of Environmental Liability and Taxes in US Environmental Law, in Maritime Pollution Liability and Policy: China, Europe, and the US, Kluwer Law International, 111–119 (2010).
Fashioning Entitlements: A Comparative Law and Economic Analysis of the Judicial Role in Environmental Centralization in the U.S. and Europe (with Michael G. Faure), in Governing the Environment: Salient Institutional Issues, Edward Elgar Publishing, 138 (2009).
Tradable Pollution Permits and the Regulatory Game, in Moving to Markets in Environmental Regulation: Lessons from Twenty Years of Experience, Oxford University Press, 353–385 (2006).
The Promise and Limits of Voluntary Management-Based Regulatory Reform: An Analysis of EPA's Strategic Goals Program, in Leveraging the Private Sector: Management-based Strategies for Improving Environmental Performance, Resources for the Future, 167–200 (2006).
Rules and the Possibility of Social Cooperation, in Rules and Reasoning, Hart Publishing, 109–126 (1999).

Articles & Reviews

Renewable Power and the Reliability and Cost of Electricity, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper (2022).
The Freedom to Fail: Market Access as the Path to Overcoming Poverty and Inequality, 40 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 41–49 (2017).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Arbitration Study: A Summary and Critique (with Todd Zywicki), Banking & Financial Sevices Policy Report 9–29 (2016).
A Positive Political Economic Theory of Environmental Federalization, 64 Case Western Reserve Law Review 1549–1617 (2014).
Disasters and Decentralization, 37 Geneva Papers on Risk & Insurance 228–256 (2012).
Debate: Climate Change and the Courts (with Heidi M. Hurd), 160 University of Pennsylvania Law Review PENNumbra 33–55 (2011).
Climate Change Litigation (panelist), 7 Journal of Law, Economics, & Policy 325–349 (2010).
Reforming State Consumer Protection Liability: An Economic Approach (with Henry N. Butler), 2010 Columbia Business Law Review 1–103 (2010).
The Law and Economics of the Environmental Federalism: Europe and the United States Compared (with Michael G. Faure), 27 Virginia Environmental Law Journal 205–274 (2009).
A Looming Policy Disaster, 31 Regulation 38–45 (2008).
Investment, Information, and Promissory Liability, 152 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1923–1946 (2004).
A Game Theoretic Analysis of Alternative Institutions for Regulatory Cost-Benefit Analysis, 150 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1343–1430 (2002).
Does Repeat Play Elicit Cooperation? Evidence from Federal Civil Litigation (with Joel Waldfogel), 31 Journal of Legal Studies 39–60 (2002).
On the Market for Ecosystem Control, 21 Virginia Environmental Law Journal 129–18 (2002).
Experimental Results on Bargaining under Alternative Property Rights Regimes, 16 Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization 50–73 (2000).
Statute of Frauds and Business Norms: A Testable Game-Theoretic Model, 144 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1859–1912 (1996).
Bargaining under Rules Versus Standards, 11 Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization 256–281 (1995).
The Influence of The Nature of the Firm on the Theory of Corporate Law, 18 Journal of Corporate Law 213–244 (1993).
Opting in and Opting Out: Bargaining for Fiduciary Duties in Cooperative Ventures, 70 Washington University Law Quarterly 291–340 (1992).
Not So Cold an Eye: Richard Posner's Pragmatism, 44 Vanderbilt Law Review 741–766 (1991).
Law, Economics, and Post-Realist Explanation, 24 Law & Society Review 1217–1254 (1990).
Punitive Liability: A New Paradigm of Efficiency in Tort Law, 87 Columbia Law Review 1385–1446 (1987).

Reports & Datasets

StatementExamining the CFPB’s Proposed Rulemaking on Arbitration: Is it in the Public Interest and for the Protection of Consumers? , US Government Printing Office 4–6, 102 (2016).

Op-Eds, Blogs, Shorter Works

Letter: Free speech is a fundamental U.Va. value (with Julia D. Mahoney, Paul G. Mahoney & et al.), Cavalier Daily (April 5, 2022).
Debunking the 100% Renewables Fantasy, RealClearEnergy (July 18, 2017).
Why Cap and Trade Doesn’t Work, American Spectator Online (March 18, 2016).
The EPA’s Regulatory Terrorism, Washington Times (February 24, 2016).
The Social Cost of Carbon, Regulation 36–44 (2016).


Professor Discusses New Book ‘Climate Rationality’

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