Nicholas R. Parrillo

William K. Townsend Professor of Law and Professor of History

Ph.D. (American Studies), Yale University, 2012

J.D., Yale Law School, 2004

A.B., Harvard University, 2000

Courses Taught
  • Administrative Law
  • Advanced Administrative Law
  • American Legal History
  • Bureaucracy
  • Remedies
  • Legislation
Nicholas Parrillo

Nicholas R. Parrillo is Townsend Professor of Law at Yale, with a secondary appointment as Professor of History. His research and teaching focus on administrative law and government bureaucracy and extend to legal history, remedies, and legislation. He is a recipient of the ABA’s award for the year’s best scholarship in administrative law and the Law and Society Association’s Hurst prize for the year’s best book in legal history. Parrillo’s articles include a study in the Yale Law Journal finding new originalist evidence against a narrow constitutional understanding of administrative regulatory power; a study in the Harvard Law Review giving the first general assessment of how the judiciary handles the federal government's disobedience to court orders; and a study that provided the empirical basis for the U.S. Administrative Conference’s best practices on the federal government’s ubiquitous but controversial use of guidance documents and was the focal point for an online symposium on that controversy. Peer scholars at Jotwell, in selecting the “best new scholarship relevant to the law,” selected each of these three studies (one of them twice). Parrillo has testified before Congress, been cited by the Supreme Court, is a senior fellow of the U.S. Administrative Conference, and has been an instructor at the New York Historical Society’s Reiss Graduate Institute and an invited speaker before the Second Circuit Judicial Conference, the law-and-science committee of the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Justice’s summit on administrative procedure, and two times before the Federalist Society’s national convention. He is a recipient of Yale Law School’s annual teaching award.


Principal Publications

“A Critical Assessment of the Originalist Case Against Administrative Regulatory Power: New Evidence from the Federal Tax on Private Real Estate in the 1790s,” Yale Law Journal 130 (2021): 1288-1455.

  • Selected for review in Jotwell (Administrative Law)
  • Related research findings appear in a supplemental paper to this article

“Towards an Administrative Law of Central Banking,” Yale Journal on Regulation 38 (2021): 1-89 (with Peter Conti-Brown and Yair Listokin).

“Should the Public Get to Participate Before Federal Agencies Issue Guidance? An Empirical Study,” Administrative Law Review 71: 57-125 (2019).

“Negotiating the Federal Government’s Compliance with Court Orders: An Initial Exploration,” North Carolina Law Review 97: 899-932 (2019).

“Federal Agency Guidance and the Power to Bind: An Empirical Study of Agencies and Industries,” Yale Journal on Regulation 36 (2019): 165-271.

  • Cited in Sackett v. EPA, No. 21-454, slip op. at 10 n.10 (U.S. Sup. Ct., May 25, 2023); Kaiser v. Johnson & Johnson, 947 F.3d 996, 1003 (7th Cir. 2020); FTC v. Credit Bureau Center, LLC, 937 F.3d 764,  771, 774 (7th Cir. 2019)
  • Selected for two reviews in Jotwell (Administrative Law)
  • Served as the focal point for an online symposium about guidance  

“Fiduciary Government and Public Officers’ Incentives,” in Fiduciary Government, ed. Evan J. Criddle et al. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 146-160.

“The Endgame of Administrative Law: Governmental Disobedience and the Judicial Contempt Power,” Harvard Law Review 131 (2018): 685-794.

“Federal Agency Guidance: An Institutional Perspective,” Final Report to the Administrative Conference of the United States (Oct. 12, 2017).

“Jerry Mashaw’s Creative Tension with the Field of Administrative Law” in Administrative Law from the Inside Out: Essays on Themes in the Work of Jerry Mashaw, ed. Nicholas R. Parrillo (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Against the Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780-1940 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013).

“Leviathan and Interpretive Revolution: The Administrative State, the Judiciary, and the Rise of Legislative History, 1890-1950,” Yale Law Journal 123 (2013): 266-411.

  • Received Cromwell Article Prize (American Society for Legal History) for the year’s best article on American legal history by an early-career scholar. 

“Testing Weber: Compensation for Public Services, Bureaucratization, and the Development of Positive Law in the United States,” in Comparative Administrative Law, ed. Susan Rose- Ackerman and Peter L. Lindseth (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010).

“The De-Privatization of American Warfare: How the U.S. Government Used, Regulated, and Ultimately Abandoned Privateering in the Nineteenth Century,” Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 19 (2007): 1-96.

“‘The Government at the Mercy of Its Contractors’: How the New Deal Lawyers Reshaped the Common Law to Challenge the Defense Industry in World War II,” Hastings Law Journal 57 (2005): 93-197.

“Lincoln’s Calvinist Transformation: Emancipation and War,” Civil War History 46 (2000): 227- 253. Republished in On Lincoln, ed. John T. Hubbell (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2014), volume 3 of Civil War History Readers (“a multivolume series reintroducing the most influential articles published in the journal”).


Administrative Law: The American Public Law System: Cases and Materials, 8th ed. (St. Paul, MN: West, 2019) (with Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, M. Elizabeth Magill, Jerry L. Mashaw, Richard A. Merrill, and Peter M. Shane).

Edited Volume

Administrative Law from the Inside Out: Essays on Themes in the Work of Jerry Mashaw, ed. Nicholas R. Parrillo (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Congressional Testimony 

Written Testimony Before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “Shining Light on the Federal Regulatory Process,” March 14, 2018 (Video of hearing: Parrillo opening statement at 36:45.)

Short Pieces

Symposium Introduction for William Novak’s New Democracy: The Creation of the Modern American State, Notice & Comment Blog, July 18, 2022

Margaret Kwoka’s Saving the Freedom of Information Act as a Model for the Empirical Study of Administrative Law, Notice & Comment Blog, Feb. 1, 2022

A Brief Response to Philip Hamburger on Nondelegation, Original Meaning, and the Direct Tax of 1798, Notice & Comment Blog, Jan. 20, 2022 

Review of Federal Ground, by Gregory Ablavsky, American Journal of Legal History 61 (2021).

“Towards an Administrative Law of Central Banking,” Oxford Business Law Blog, May 17, 2021 (with Peter Conti-Brown and Yair Listokin)

“Judge Stephen F. Williams, 1936-2020” Notice & Comment Blog, August 9, 2020 (with Peter Conti-Brown, Kristina Daugirdas, Daniel E. Ho, and Anne Joseph O’Connell)

“The Contempt Finding and Sanctions Against Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education,” Notice & Comment Blog, Oct. 30, 2019

“The New Executive Orders on Guidance: Initial Reactions,” Notice & Comment Blog, Oct. 10, 2019

Review of Inventing American Exceptionalism, by Amalia D. Kessler, Law and History Review 36 (2018): 1101-03. 

“Understanding and Addressing Controversies About Agency Guidance,” Regulatory Review, March 5, 2018 (with Lee Liberman Otis)

“Challenges Agencies Face in Communicating by Guidance,” Notice & Comment Blog, Jan. 31, 2018

“68th Plenary Preview: Agency Guidance,” Administrative Fix Blog (Administrative Conference of the United States), December 7, 2017

“The Fate of the Clean Power Plan Case: Hold in Abeyance, or Remand?” Notice & Comment Blog, May 5, 2017 

“Bureaucratic Power and the Rule of Law,” review of Tocqueville’s Nightmare, by Daniel Ernst, Reviews in American History 43 (Sept. 2015): 544-49.

“Administrative Constitutionalism and Administrative Power,” RegBlog, Symposium on Sophia Lee’s The Workplace Constitution, April 1, 2015

“Remarks Accepting the Section’s 2014 Annual Scholarship Award for Against the Profit Motive,” Administrative & Regulatory Law News, 40, no. 2 (Winter 2015): 7-9.

Review of Making the Modern American Fiscal State, by Ajay Mehrotra, Journal of American History 101 (March 2015): 1225-26.

“The Salary Revolution and the Marks of Government’s Distinctness: A Response to Jon Michaels,” Harvard Law Review Forum 128, no. 99 (Feb. 10, 2015)

 “The Banishment of the Profit Motive from American Government—and Its Return?” Balkinization, June 12, 2014.

“American Fiscal State-Building, Crisis, and Contingency,” PrawfsBlawg, Symposium on Ajay Mehrotra’s Making the Modern American Fiscal State, June 10, 2014.

“What Is the Future of Scholarly Books in the Digital Age?” Legal History Blog, Nov. 26, 2013.

“Researching State Legislative Records: The Biggest Obstacle in American Legal History,” Legal History Blog, Nov. 13, 2013.

“Impartial Decisionmaker,” in Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties, ed. Paul Finkelman (New York: Routledge, 2006), 2: 798-801.