Karsh Center’s First Bicentennial Professors Research Law and Democracy Issues

Michael Gilbert, Micah Schwartzman and Mila Versteeg

Michael Gilbert, Micah Schwartzman and Mila Versteeg will serve as the Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professors of Law. Photos by Jesús Pino, Andrew Shurtleff and Jack Looney

August 5, 2019

Three new endowed chairs tied to the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy will fund the work of scholars at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Part of a $44 million gift from Martha Lubin Karsh ’81 and Bruce Karsh ’80 announced in May 2018, the chairs will support the research and scholarship of professors Michael Gilbert, Micah Schwartzman and Mila Versteeg.

The Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professorships, which rotate every three years, are designed to further the mission of the Karsh Center, a nonpartisan legal institute that promotes understanding and appreciation of the principles and practices necessary for a well-functioning, pluralistic democracy. Those include civil discourse and democratic dialogue, civic engagement and citizenship, ethics and integrity in public office, and respect for the rule of law. The Karsh gift was matched in part by funds from the University of Virginia Bicentennial Professorships Fund.

“These three scholars have all contributed to a conversation about what democracy is, why it’s important, and how it can be preserved or nurtured,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “The professorships are vital to helping them influence public discourse about democracy, as well as extend and expand their work into invaluable areas of law.”

Michael Gilbert teaches courses on election law, legislation, and law and economics. His current research focuses on constitutional entrenchment, campaign finance law, corruption and the design of courts, and he is working on a book-length project on public law and economics. He received his Ph.D. from the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at the University of California, Berkeley, and his J.D. from Berkeley Law School. In 2015 he won the UVA Student Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

Micah Schwartzman ’05, director of the Karsh Center, focuses on law and religion, jurisprudence, political philosophy and constitutional law. Schwartzman received his B.A. and J.D. from the University of Virginia and his doctorate in politics from the University of Oxford. He co-edited the book “The Rise of Corporate Religious Liberty” and is co-authoring a forthcoming casebook on constitutional law and religion.

Mila Versteeg’s research and teaching interests include comparative constitutional law, public international law and empirical legal studies. Most of her research deals with the origins, evolution and effectiveness of provisions in the world’s constitutions. In 2017, Versteeg was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, which provided her with a $200,000 award to expand her research into the world's constitutions to better understand how constitutional rights are enforced in different countries.

The center officially launched in November when financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein interviewed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had just retired from the bench. The program aired on PBS and “The David Rubenstein Show.”

“The Karsh Center had a great start last year, with the visit of Justice Kennedy, a faculty-student series on the future of the Supreme Court and our first annual May Gathering, a colloquium bringing together faculty from all over the country,” Schwartzman said. “With these new chairs, we are excited to expand our program in the upcoming year.”

Martha Lubin Karsh, a leader in the nonprofit world, is serving as co-chair of the University’s Honor the Future capital campaign. Both she and her husband, Bruce Karsh, who is co-founder, co-chairman and chief investment officer of Oaktree Capital Management, have together given more than $250 million to education through the Karsh Family Foundation. The Karshes are also honorary co-chairs for the Law School’s capital campaign.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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