Jason S. Johnston

  • Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law
  • Armistead M. Dobie Professor of 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 serves as the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of 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


Institutions and Incentives in Regulatory Science (Editor and Contributor. Lexington Press: 2012).

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

“The Freedom to Fail: Market Access as the Path to Overcoming Poverty and Inequality,” 40 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 41 (2017).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“High Cost, Little Compensation, No Harm to Deter: New Evidence on Class Actions under Federal Consumer Protection Statutes,” 2017 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 1.
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

"Debunking the 100 Percent Renewables Fantasy,” ___ Regulation__ (2017).

“Restoring Objectivity and Balance to Regulatory Science: A Comment on Dudley and Peacock,” 24 Sup. Ct. Econ. Rev. 101 (2016).

"High Cost, Little Compensation, No Harm to Deter: New Evidence on Class Actions Under Federal Consumer Protection Statutes"

"Beyond the Social Cost of Carbon: The Real Economic Lessons About the Determinants of Harm from Changing Climate and Their Implications for Climate Policy".

"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Arbitration Study: A Summary and Critique" (with Todd J. Zywicki), Banking & Fin. Serv. Pol’y Rep., May 2016, at 9.

"The False Federalism of EPA's Clean Power Plan."

“Do Product Bans Help Consumers?: Questioning the Economic Foundations of Dodd Frank Mortgage Regulation,” 23 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 617-696 (2016).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“The Social Cost of Carbon," Regulation, Spring 2016, at 36.
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“A Positive Political Economic Theory of Environmental Federalization,” 64 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 1549 (2014).

“The Cost of Cartelization: The IPCC Process and the Crisis of Credibility in Climate Science,” in Jason Scott Johnston, ed., Institutions and Incentives in Regulatory Science17 (Lexington Books, 2012).

“Disasters and Decentralization,” 37 Geneva Papers on Risk & Ins. 228 (2012).
Link to PDF

“Fire Suppression Policy, Weather, and Western Wildland Fire Trends” (with Jonathan Klick), in Karen M. Bradshaw & Dean Lueck, eds., Wildfire Policy: Law and Economics Perspectives 158 (RFF Press, 2012).

“Debate: Climate Change and the Courts” (with Heidi M. Hurd), 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. PENNumbra 33 (2011).

"Reforming State Consumer Protection Liability: An Economic Approach," 2010 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 1-109 (2010) (with Henry Butler).
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"Global Warming Advocacy Science: A Cross Examination" (July 2010)

“Problems of Equity and Efficiency in the Design of International Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Schemes,” 33 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 405-430 (2009).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“The Law and Economics of Environmental Federalism: Europe and the United States Compared,” 27 Va. Envtl. L.J. 205-274 (2009).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"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), inResponsibility and Governance (Giorgio Brosio, et. al., eds., Edward Elgar, (2009)).

"Climate Change Confusion and the Supreme Court: The Misguided Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act," 84 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1-75 (2008).
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"Tradable Pollution Permits and the Regulatory Game," in Moving to Markets in Environmental Regulation: Lessons from Twenty Years of Experience 353-385 (Charles Kolstad and Jody Freeman, eds., Oxford University Press, 2007).

"The Promise, and Limits of Voluntary Approaches to Regulatory Reform: An Economic and Legal Analysis of EPA's Metal Finishing Industry Strategic Goals Program," inLeveraging the Private Sector 167-200 (Cary Coglianese and Jennifer Nash, eds., Resources for the Future Press, 2006).

"The Return of Bargain: An Economic Theory of How Standard Form Contracts Enable Cooperative Negotiation between Businesses and Consumers," 104 Mich. L. Rev. 857-898 (2006).
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"The Rule of Capture and the Economic Dynamics of Natural Resource Use and Survival Under Open Access Management Regimes," 35 Envtl. L. Rev. 855-898 (2005).
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"The Tragedy of Centralization: The Political Economics of American Natural Resources Federalism," 74 U. Colo. L. Rev. 487-649 (2003).
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"Default Rules/Mandatory Principles: A Game Theoretic Analysis of Good Faith and the Contract Modification Problem," 3 S. Cal. Interdisc. L. J. 335-388 (1993).
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"The Influence of The Nature of the Firm on the Theory of Corporate Law," 18 J. Corp. L.213-244 (1993).
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"Opting In and Opting Out: Bargaining for Fiduciary Duties in Cooperative Ventures," 70Wash. U. L. Q. 291-340 (1992).
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"Uncertainty, Chaos and the Torts Process: An Economic Analysis of Legal Form," 76Cornell. L. Rev. 341-400 (1991).
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"Strategic Bargaining and the Economic Theory of Contract Default Rules," 100 Yale L. J.615-664 (1990).
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"Law, Economics and the Post-Realist Explanation," 24 Law & Soc'y Rev., 1217-1254 (1990).
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"Bayesian Fact-Finding Efficiency: Toward an Economic Theory of Liability Under Uncertainty," 61 S. Cal. L. Rev. 137-181 (1987).
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"Punitive Liability: A New Paradigm of Efficiency in Tort Law," 87 Colum. L. Rev. 1385-1446 (1987).
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Comments, Notes, Reviews

"A Looming Policy Disaster," 31 Regulation, 38-44 (Fall, 2008).

"Desperately Seeking Numbers: Global Warming, Species Loss, and the Use and Abuse of Quantification in Climate Change Policy," 155 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1901-1924 (2007).

"Investment, Information, and Promissory Liability," 152 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1923-1946 (2004).

"Law, Judicial Review, and Formal Models of the Regulation Game: A Comment on de Figueiredo & de Figueiredo," 4 Business & Politics 183-185 (2002).

"Should the Law Ignore Commercial Norms?: A Comment on the Bernstein Conjecture and Its Relevance for Contract Law Theory and Reform," 99 Mich. L. Rev. 1791-1810 (2001).

"Not So Cold an Eye: Richard Posner's Pragmatism" (Review), 44 Vand. L. Rev. 743-767 (1991).

Current Courses

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