Matthew D. Adler

July 9, 2012Duke Law News

Matthew D. AdlerLeading scholar of administrative and constitutional law blends policy analysis, risk regulation, and constitutional theory

"In addition to being a great scholar, Matt is a wonderful colleague who has insights on a vast range of topics and is generous with his time — he is the type of person who makes everyone around him better."

Professor Curtis Bradley

Matthew Adler’s work integrates law, welfare economics, and moral philosophy in studying policy analysis, risk regulation, and constitutional theory. A creative and prolific scholar, Adler also has been honored for excellence in teaching.

“Matt Adler is a terrific scholar, colleague, and teacher,” said Dean David F. Levi. “He is the kind of thinker who can change a field. He is the kind of colleague who generates new ideas and intellectual excitement in oth­ers. And he is the kind of teacher and mentor who can inspire students and bring them to a new level of attainment.”

The author of numerous articles and several books, Adler recently published Well-Being and Fair Distribution: Beyond Cost-Benefit Analysis (Oxford University Press, 2012), which provides a comprehen­sive, philosophically grounded argument for using social welfare functions as a frame­work for evaluating governmental policies. His edited volume, The Rule of Recognition and the U.S. Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2009; edited with Ken Himma), explores the intersection of jurisprudence and constitutional theory in discuss­ing the applicability of legal philoso­pher H.L.A. Hart’s notion of a “rule of recognition” to the U.S. legal system. Adler currently serves as an editor of Legal Theory, the leading journal in the area of law and philosophy.

“My scholarly approach, throughout my career, has been to use the rigorous tools of philosophical analysis to address problems of public law, such as risk regulation, con­stitutional theory, and cost-benefit analysis,” Adler said. “Many of those problems also implicate welfare economics, and so much of my work lies at the intersection of law, phi­losophy, and economics.”

His current research concerns happiness and public policy. In a series of articles, he is critically evaluating “subjective well-being” surveys that correlate an individual’s hap­piness with income, employment, or health and the use of such measures in the develop­ment of public policy.

“This is a stellar hire for Duke,” said Curtis A. Bradley, the William W. Van Alstyne Professor of Law. “Matt has done groundbreaking work on risk and policy analysis, especially concerning the use of cost-benefit methodology and the evaluation of well-being. He is also a leading expert on constitutional theory and jurisprudence, hav­ing written important articles on topics such as the rule of recognition and popular con­stitutionalism. In addition to being a great scholar, he is a wonderful colleague who has insights on a vast range of topics and is gen­erous with his time — he is the type of per­son who makes everyone around him better.”

Adler joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1995 after serving as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York. He also served as a law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court and to Judge Harry Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He has been a visiting profes­sor at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, the University of Virginia, and Bar-Ilan University Law Faculty in Tel Aviv, and he was a visiting professor at Duke University during the 2011-12 academic year.

University of Pennsylvania law students honored Adler in 2001 and 2006 with the Harvey Levin Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2007, he received the University of Pennsylvania’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching and in 2010 the A. Leo Levin Award for Excellence in an Introductory Course.

Adler holds a BA and JD from Yale University, where he was a member of the Yale Law Journal. He was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, where he completed an M.Litt. in Modern History.

Adler, who will teach constitutional law and administrative law at Duke, said he is particularly excited to become part of Duke Law’s “vibrant” public law faculty and to engage with faculty in other fields and disci­plines across campus. “Duke Law is a mar­velous, tight-knit intellectual community,” he said. “As an interdisciplinary scholar, I also look forward to interacting with the phi­losophy and economics departments, public policy school, and other schools and depart­ments at Duke.”