PUBLISHED:April 29, 2020

Farahany, Frakes, Sachs awarded distinguished professorships by Duke


The three Law School faculty members were recognized by Duke University for having amassed a substantial record of intellectual achievement and being leading thinkers in their fields.

Professors Nita Farahany JD/MA ’04, PhD ’06, Michael Frakes, and Stephen Sachs have been awarded distinguished professorships from Duke University. Their professorships will take effect on July 1.

Dean Kerry Abrams nominated the three Duke Law professors on the recommendation of those members of the Law School faculty who already hold distinguished professorships. To qualify for a distinguished professorship at Duke, a faculty member must have amassed a substantial record of intellectual achievement and be one of the leading thinkers in their field. The award recognizes past achievement and predicts future accomplishment.  

Farahany named Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law 

Farahany, who will be the Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law, is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research and writing engage with the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies, with a particular focus on bioethics and neuroscience. She holds a secondary appointment in Duke’s Philosophy department and serves as founding director of Duke Science & Society and faculty chair for the Master's in Bioethics & Science Policy program. 

Farahany’s early work was largely oriented toward explaining how existing and potential advances in neuroscience could help reconfigure positive criminal and constitutional law doctrine, particularly those relating to the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Her more recent scholarship addresses the use of neuroscience in criminal courtrooms and argues that emerging developments in neuroscience demand the recognition of a new liberty interest in cognitive processes. Much of Farahany’s recent work is collaborative and includes laboratory research. She is the director of the Science, Law & Policy Lab (SLAPLAB), which studies the role of science in law and the policymaking process. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and served until 2017. 

Professor Nita Farahany
Professor Nita Farahany

“Nita Farahany is one of the world’s preeminent scholars studying the intersection of law and science and technology,” Abrams said. “Her commitment to cutting-edge research, engagement across disciplinary boundaries, and leadership at Duke University have long made her a standout in the legal academy.”

Farahany joined the Duke faculty in 2012 from Vanderbilt University, returning to the institution where she earned a JD/MA and a PhD in Philosophy. She received her AB in genetics, cell, and developmental biology at Dartmouth College and also holds an ALM in biology from Harvard University. After law school, Farahany clerked for Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In 2011, she was the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School.

The Everett Professorship honors the late Professor Robinson O. Everett LLM ’59, who taught at Duke for more than 51 years and inspired thousands of Duke Law students and alumni with his kindness, his service to the law and to the legal profession, and his devotion to Duke Law School. A former chief judge and senior judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, Everett was a leading authority on military law and justice. The Everett Professorship was established with support from The Duke Endowment’s Strategic Faculty Initiative as well as the friends and family of Robinson Everett, is designated to a legal scholar who also engages in undergraduate teaching at Duke.

“This was such welcome news amidst the tragedy and struggles we as a community and society face with this global pandemic,” Farahany said. “I’m truly grateful to receive a distinguished professorship at Duke University, and it holds a special meaning for me that the chair is named in honor of Judge Robinson O. Everett, who was an extraordinary public servant, lawyers, judge, and law professor. I had the privilege of working with Judge Everett when I was a law student at Duke Law School as I prepared for an oral argument before the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. It was one of the highlights of my time as a law student and it’s humbling to hold a distinguished professorship in his name.”

Frakes receives A. Kenneth Pye Professorship

Frakes, a law and economics scholar and legal empiricist whose work spans several fields, including patent law and health economics, received the A. Kenneth Pye Professorship. He holds a secondary appointment in Duke’s Economics department.

Frakes’ research in health is largely focused on understanding how certain legal and financial incentives affect the decisions of physicians and other health care providers. He is currently serving as the principal investigator on a grant from the National Institutes of Health exploring the effects of immunizing physicians from medical liability on the extent and quality of the medical care they deliver, and his recent paper on defensive medicine, co-authored with MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, has been selected by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as a finalist for its prestigious Health Care Research Award. Frakes’ research in innovation policy centers on the relationship between the financing of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and key aspects of its decision-making. 

Professor Michael Frakes
Professor Michael Frakes

“Michael Frakes is an exceptionally innovative thinker who also takes a strongly interdisciplinary approach to scholarship,” Abrams said. “His focus on influencing policy and his engagement with scholars in law, health economics, and medical sciences has made him a leading figure at the convergence of those fields.”

Frakes, who is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, joined the Duke Law faculty in 2016 from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He was previously an assistant professor of law at Cornell Law School. He earned his JD from Harvard Law School and a BS and PhD, both in economics, from MIT. After law school, Frakes was an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Wilmington, Del., and later an academic fellow at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard.

The Pye Professorship is named for A. Kenneth Pye, a distinguished member of the Duke Law faculty for 21 years who twice served as dean, from 1968-70 and 1973-76. Pye also twice served as Duke University chancellor, from 1970-71 and 1976-82, and served as university counsel in between. The Pye Professorship was previously held by Katharine T. Bartlett, who took emerita status in 2019. Bartlett, who served as dean from 2000-2007, had held the professorship since 1995. 

“I am beyond honored to receive the A. Kenneth Pye Professorship at Duke Law School,” Frakes said. “I am also honored to be succeeding Kate Bartlett as the holder of this professorship. I cannot possibly imagine adequately filling her shoes, but I will certainly look to Kate’s career as a source of inspiration for my own future progress. I will do the same with respect to this professorship’s namesake, whose accomplishments – as a scholar, institutional citizen, and leader – were simply astounding. I am grateful to his friends, family, and supporters for making this professorship possible.”

Sachs to hold Colin W. Brown Professorship

Sachs, a scholar of civil procedure, constitutional law, Anglo-American legal history, and conflict of laws, will hold the Colin W. Brown Professorship.

Sachs' research spans a variety of substantive topics, focusing on the history of procedure and private law and its implications for current disputes. His research interests include federal jurisdiction, constitutional interpretation, sovereign immunity, and the legal status of corporations. His scholarship has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court, including an amicus brief on forum selection agreements in civil cases that the Court ordered the parties to be prepared to address and that was discussed at oral argument and in the Court's opinion. The brief was later named among the "Exemplary Legal Writing of 2013" by The Green Bag Almanac & Reader.

Professor Stephen Sachs
Professor Stephen Sachs

Sachs was the recipient of the Federalist Society’s 2020 Joseph Story Award, which recognizes an academic under 40 who has demonstrated excellence in legal scholarship, a commitment to teaching, and a concern for students, and who has made a significant public impact in a manner that advances the rule of law in a free society. He is a member of the Judicial Conference’s Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules, an elected member of the American Law Institute, and an adviser to the ALI’s project on the Restatement of the Law (Third), Conflict of Laws.

“Stephen Sachs is a brilliant young scholar whose work has been exceptionally influential from his early years as an academic,” Abrams said. “He is also a beloved teacher of civil procedure and constitutional law who wows Duke Law students with his engaging and enthusiastic dedication to the subjects of his courses.”  

Sachs joined the faculty in 2011 after practicing in the litigation group of Mayer Brown in Washington, D.C. He clerked for Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. during the 2009-2010 Supreme Court term and Judge Stephen F. Williams on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2007-2008. He received his JD from Yale, where he was executive editor of the Yale Law Journal and served both as executive editor and articles editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review. He earned an AB in history from Harvard, graduating first in his class, and was a Rhodes Scholar.

The Colin W. Brown Professorship was endowed in 2016 by JM Family Enterprises with matching funds from The Duke Endowment as a tribute to Brown ’74, the president and chief executive officer of the Deerfield, Fla.-based company. Brown, a member of the Duke Law Board of Visitors and longtime scholarship benefactor at Duke Law, has been recognized for his leadership of the family-owned business, one of the largest private companies in the United States. The professorship was previously held by Carolyn McAllaster, who was its inaugural recipient in 2017 and took emerita status last year.

“I am honored and grateful to receive the Colin W. Brown Professorship,” said Sachs. “Duke Law is second to none in its support of its faculty and students, and I am thankful for the generous support of Colin Brown and of the many other alumni who make that possible.”