Mila Versteeg’s Co-Authored Book Wins Public Law Society’s Top Honor

‘How Constitutional Rights Matter’ Written With Chicago’s Adam Chilton
Mila Versteeg and her book "How Constitutional Rights Matter"

Professor Mila Versteeg used some of her $200,000 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to fund research for her co-authored book “How Constitutional Rights Matter.” Photo by Tom Daly/Illustration by Warren Craghead

July 9, 2021

University of Virginia School of Law professor Mila Versteeg’s book “How Constitutional Rights Matter” was awarded the International Society of Public Law prize Friday for best book published in 2019 or 2020, an honor that she shared with her co-author, Adam Chilton.

Their book, released last summer by Oxford University Press, examines whether including rights in constitutions actually improves their protection. Chilton, a University of Chicago law professor, has been one of Versteeg’s frequent collaborators.

The book was awarded the prize during the closing ceremony of the society’s annual conference, which featured 272 sessions and some 1,500 public law scholars from around the world. Competition among members, who also represent expertise in the social sciences and humanities, was steep because two years of entries were combined due to the pandemic.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this award,” Versteeg said. “I am particularly grateful to the intellectual community at UVA that has helped me develop the ideas articulated in the book over the years.”

Among insights shared in the book, Versteeg and Chilton showed that the willingness of groups to organize and push back against the erosion of constitutional rights resulted in stronger protections. Their investigation solicited survey experiments, statistical analyses and case studies from around the world to better understand levels of rights enforcement.

The book also won the Best Book Award from the Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association.

The research benefited from Versteeg winning a $200,000 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, some of which she put toward her expenses in researching the book.

Versteeg is director of UVA Law’s Center for International and Comparative Law and Human Rights Program. Her research and teaching interests include comparative constitutional law, public international law and empirical legal studies. She has published more than 50 articles and book chapters, in both legal and social science journals, and is considered a pioneer in applying empirical research methods to studying constitutions.

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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