Two University of Virginia School of Law professors are among a team of UVA scholars fighting corruption through a new conduit for related research and education efforts.

Professors Deborah Hellman and Michael Gilbert are inaugural scholars in UVA’s Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability, and the Rule of Law, also known as CLEAR.

The lab looks at the “causes, methods and consequences of corruption,” according to its website, in collaboration with other UVA professors and departments, as part of UVA’s overarching Democracy Initiative, which aims to study and advance the prospects of democracy around the world.

The lab will officially launch its public-facing efforts with the one-day conference “Corruption and Institutional Decay,” to be held Nov. 19 at the Miller Center. The event will feature William Browder, a businessman who has challenged the Russian government in regard to alleged money laundering. (Law students are asked to register by Nov. 5.)

CLEAR asserts that corruption undermines democratic institutions, economies, property rights, and public health and education, among other aspects of well-functioning societies.

“Corruption is more than a crime; it’s a threat to democracy,” Gilbert said. “Our lab aims to define and deter that threat. We seek new insights and solutions to an age-old problem.”

Hellman added, “Corruption not only undermines democracy, but how we define corruption has implications for what will be conceived of as good government. A better, more nuanced understanding of corruption is thus crucially important.” 

A significant portion of Hellman’s research focuses on the relationship between money and legal rights. She has authored 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.

Gilbert’s research focuses on constitutional entrenchment, campaign finance law, corruption and the design of courts. He has recently written about voter ID laws and the downside of public disclosure laws meant to encourage more transparency in politics and government. His research has appeared in multiple law reviews, peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, and he has lectured throughout the United States and around the world.

The Democracy Initiative established CLEAR In 2018. The lab will run for three years.

The other UVA professors affiliated with the lab are Daniel W. Gingerich, associate professor of politics and director of UVA's Quantitative Collaborative; David Singerman, assistant professor of history and American studies; Sandip Sukhtankar, associate professor, Department of Economics; and Sylvia Tidey, assistant professor of anthropology.

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Deborah Hellman

“Understanding Bribery,” in The Ethics of Criminal Law (Ferzan & Alexander eds., Palgrave McMillan Press, forthcoming 2019). 

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

A Theory of Bribery,” 38 Cardozo L. Rev. 1947 (2017).

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

Defining Corruption and Constitutionalizing Democracy,” 111 Mich. L. Rev. 1385 (2013).

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

Michael Gilbert

Transparency and Corruption: A General Analysis,”  2018 U. Chi. Legal F. 117 (2018).

Aggregate Corruption” (with Emily Reeder), 104 Ky. L.J. 651 (2016).

The Coordination Fallacy” (with Brian Barnes), 43 Fla. St. U.L. Rev. 399 (2016).

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.