Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cromwell Article Prize to Justin Driver


Here's another award from this year's ASLH meeting: The Cromwell Article Prize, given by the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation for "the best article in American legal history published by an early career scholar." This year's award went to Justin Driver (University of Texas, Austin) for “The Constitutional Conservatism of the Warren Court." The article appeared in Volume 100 of the California Law Review (2012). The citation reads:
During deliberations committee members repeatedly praised the beauty of language and sweep of interpretation in Driver’s reassessment of the Warren Court.  The article presented in broad and persuasive terms the counter-intuitive principle that the Warren Court was not so much radically liberal as it was – in many instances – conservative.  We were impressed with Driver’s contextualization of Warren Court decisions that highlights their unexpected conservatism, his emphasis of the operation of historical contingency in the development of Supreme Court jurisprudence, and his complication of the longstanding binary interpretation of the Warren Court.  He highlights how these historical misperceptions continue to inform contemporary attitudes towards the possibilities of constitutional interpretation and perhaps falsely limit approaches to argumentation before the Supreme Court.  Finally, he offers a programmatic sort of inspiration for what the Supreme Court can actually achieve given cultural and legal limitations.  “The Constitutional Conservatism of the Warren Court” has particular value in its sophisticated approach towards the applications of history.  This is not an attempt to ascertain some sort of original meaning of legislation or jurisprudence; nor does it simply mobilize historical “facts” in service of a contemporary interpretation or agenda.  Rather, the article serves as an extended meditation on historical contingency, on the relative significance of choice and chance in history, and brilliantly achieves one of the greatest contributions the study of history can offer:  the elucidation of the nature and extent of our own choices.
Hat tip: H-Law
The members of the Cromwell Article Prize Committee were:
Alfred Brophy, University of North Carolina School of Law (Chair)
Mary Sarah Bilder, Boston College
Daniel W. Hamilton, University of Illinois 
Kristin A. Olbertson, Alma College
 Congratulations to Justin Driver!

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