Professor Nita Farahany received the Paul M. Bator Award during a ceremony at the University of Texas School of Law on March 2. The award, named after a renowned scholar and teacher, is awarded every year by the Federalist Society to an academic under the age of 40 who has demonstrated excellence in legal scholarship, a commitment to teaching, a concern for students, and who has made a significant public impact.
Farahany, a 2004 Duke Law graduate who also received her MA and PhD in philosophy from Duke University, focuses her research and teaching on the legal, social, and ethical applications of the biosciences, particularly behavioral genetics and neuroscience.
She also serves as the chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Association of Law Schools, a board member of the International Neuroethics Society, a founder and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Law and Biosciences, and a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. On July 18, Farahany testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law during a session titled “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties.”
Farahany said she was surprised to hear she would receive the award.
“I was familiar with the Bator award, and its distinguished list of past recipients, but was completely surprised to learn that not only had I been nominated for it, that I was being awarded it,” she said.
Dean David F. Levi knew Paul M. Bator, who taught at Harvard Law School from 1959 to 1982 and from 1983 to 1985, and at the University of Chicago from 1985 until his untimely death in 1989. He also served as principal deputy solicitor general in 1982 and 1983. “He was one of the greatest federal courts scholars of the last century and a superb advocate,” said Levi.
“He was unrelenting in his insistence on excellence,” Levi said of Bator. “It is a great honor to receive an award in his name.”
Farahany said that the award’s focus on a scholar’s public impact is particularly meaningful to her. She frequently speaks publicly on the issues she is researching through public speaking engagements, public commentary, and through her work on the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, frequent “Public debate and engagement about science, its applications, and legitimate uses and restrictions are essential to ethical scientific progress,” Farahany said.
In her acceptance remarks, Farahany noted: "Recent advances in neuroscience are extraordinary and hold great promise for progress in society – we live in a truly exciting time. But a free society – one that values democracy and liberty -- has to ask who can access these technologies, for what purposes, and how do they impact our individual autonomy and liberty? How do they challenge the balance of power between society and the individual? These questions, whether raised by new technologies or by existing ones, are ones that the Federalist Society consistently asks. It’s an organization that consistently champions individual liberty, autonomy, and the rule of law."
Constitutional law scholar Ernest Young, Duke’s Alston & Bird Professor of Law, won the Paul M. Bator Award in 2005.