Accolades: Professor’s Paper on Algorithmic Decision-Making Wins Award

Faculty, Students Honored for Scholarship
Deborah Hellman

Deborah Hellman is the David Lurton Massee, Jr., Professor of Law. Photo by Ian Bradshaw

December 18, 2020

The University of Virginia School of Law and members of the Law School community have recently been singled out for excellence. Among the accolades, the Association of American Law Schools announced Thursday that Professor Deborah Hellman has won the Section on Jurisprudence Article Award.

Published in the Virginia Law Review, Hellman’s paper “Measuring Algorithmic Fairness” outlines how best to measure whether algorithms — which are used in everything from pricing insurance to considering risk for recidivism — are fair. Hellman writes that algorithmic decision-making “is both increasingly common and increasingly controversial” due to the potential for discrimination against protected groups.

The awards are hosted by several of AALS’s 103 sections organized around various academic disciplines and topics of interest. This year’s winners will be honored during an online awards ceremony at the 2021 AALS Annual Meeting on Jan. 5.

Hellman, a member of the American Law Institute, is author of the book “When Is Discrimination Wrong?” and co-editor of “The Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law.” She is the David Lurton Massee, Jr., Professor of Law.

Alumnae Elizabeth Katz ’09, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, and Pamela Bookman ’06, a professor at Fordham University School of Law, also picked up AALS prizes for their scholarship.

Commitment to Racial Justice

UVA Law is No. 10 among law schools for a commitment to racial justice, in a preLaw magazine ranking announced Nov. 25 based on clinics, centers, courses, journals and student body diversity. “What all of the schools have in common is a commitment to racial justice issues that is supported through their curriculum and by their faculties,” reads the fall issue preLaw article bestowing the honor. The publication is a product of National Jurist. UVA Law’s racial justice academic programs include the Center for the Study of Race and Law, the Center for Criminal Justice, the Innocence Project and the Civil Rights Clinic. Additionally, the Law School hosts the annual Shaping Justice conference, aimed at inspiring students and lawyers to promote justice through public service. This year, the Law School welcomed its most diverse class on record.

Honoring Howard

Professor A. E. Dick Howard ’61 will be honored with the Hill-Robinson Expansion of Freedom Award by the Virginia Commonwealth University L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs on April 15. The 14th Excellence in Virginia Government virtual ceremony will celebrate Virginians who have made noteworthy contributions to the practice of government and the welfare of the state’s communities and citizens. Award recipients were announced Jan. 29. Howard served as executive director of the Commission on Constitutional Revision and directed the successful referendum campaign for the new Virginia constitution’s ratification, which took effect in 1971. He is the Warner-Booker Distinguished Professor of International Law.

Faculty Scholarship Wins Prize

Professor Cynthia Nicoletti, a legal historian, on Aug. 5 was named winner of the Supreme Court Historical Society’s Hughes-Gossett Award for Best Journal Article for “Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase and the Permanency of the Union,” published in the Journal of Supreme Court History. Nicoletti is the Class of 1966 Research Professor of Law and has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the William Nelson Cromwell Prize for the best dissertation in legal history, awarded by the American Society for Legal History.

A Global Pioneer

Professor Mila Versteeg will be awarded the Innovator in Constitutional Democracy Prize at The Global Summit in January. The four-day summit, hosted by the International Forum on the Future of Constitutionalism, is a multilingual and multidisciplinary academic event for scholars of all ranks around the world, from undergraduate students to senior professors. Versteeg is being recognized “for her pioneering empirical research methods in the study of constitutions,” said University of Texas law professor Richard Albert, the forum’s founding director, who made the announcement Sept. 17. Versteeg is co-director of the Human Rights Program and Center for International & Comparative Law, and a senior fellow at the Miller Center.

‘Two Rights’ Wins a Prize

Justin Aimonetti J.D.-M.A. ’20 and Christian Talley ’20 were named co-winners of The Yale Law Journal’s annual Student Essay Competition for their paper exploring defamation torts. Their paper, “How Two Rights Made a Wrong—Sullivan, Anti-SLAPP, and the Under-Enforcement of Public Figure Defamation Torts,” is forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal Forum. Aimonetti and Talley argue that anti-SLAPP (“strategic lawsuits against public participation”) laws coupled with high standards established in New York Times v. Sullivan make successful defamation suits virtually impossible. The duo previously won the annual White River Environmental Law Writing Competition, sponsored by the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law and Vermont Law School, and Stanford Law Review’s inaugural Student Essay Competition

Tops on Twitter

UVA Law ranks No. 1 globally in the number of law professor followers on Twitter among top 20 law schools, with 3,590, according to a recent analysis.

Ryan Whalen, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, used a self-reporting census to map law school professor Twitter use for his report, “The Law Prof Twittersphere 2020.”

Resident faculty can be followed on Twitter here.

ACS Chapter Recognized

The American Constitution Society chapter was named Student Chapter of the Week for Nov. 16. The chapter was lauded for its Zoom-friendly programming, most notably hosting federal and state judges for conversations. Students were also recognized for partnering with social justice organizations for election protection teams. “While COVID-19 has unquestionably presented more challenges than benefits, one of the few benefits that the chapter has seized on is the ease of access to leaders from all over the country,” the national ACS noted.

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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