Jack Whiteley ’18 Appointed Associate Professor at Minnesota Law

Jack Whiteley ’18

The Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) congratulates Jack Whiteley ’18 on his appointment as Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he will teach and conduct research in property, environmental law, and related subjects starting in August 2023. Whiteley studied law at Yale and international relations at the University of St. Andrews. His scholarship examines the legal theory of property and evidence and how they intersect with environmental questions, with a focus on the connections between judge-made law and public law.

Whiteley is currently a teaching fellow and supervisory attorney at Georgetown’s Environmental Law & Justice Clinic, where he oversees students working on environmental issues and co-teaches a seminar on environmental law and justice. While a student at Yale Law School, Whiteley was a Coker Fellow, an Executive Editor of the Yale Journal of International Law, and a member of the Yale Environmental Protection Clinic, where he worked on state-level regulation of pesticides with harmful public health effects.

His forthcoming paper, “Property and Wolves,” examines the role of bounties on wolves, mountain lions, and other wild animals in American property law history and develops ideas about why nonhuman animal eradication was such a prominent public policy initiative. The paper argues that state statutes that placed bounties on wild animals can be understood as an early form of state intervention into how land was developed. He credits his interest in this topic to Yale’s animal law course: “The course encouraged students to think about what laws governing other species might reveal about other aspects of the legal system,” Whiteley said. “I think that these theoretical and historical questions are of interest to the legal, moral, and scientific concerns of the present moment.”

Whiteley joins other recent Yale Law School graduates, such as Lingxi Chenyang ’20, who have entered law teaching with an interest in issues of nonhuman animals and the law. A key goal shared by LEAP and its supporter, the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law & Policy, is to help promote the strengthening and expansion of animal law as a scholarly field. This year, two LEAP Fellows — Emma LeBlanc ’24 and Thomas Poston ’24 — are among the recipients of the Brooks Emerging Scholar Fellowship, which is designed to increase the number of legal academics in the United States who are committed to making animal law a significant component of their teaching and research. 

“I was thrilled for Jack and thrilled for the field when I learned of his appointment at Minnesota,” said LEAP faculty Co-Director and Joseph M. Field ’55 Professor of Law
Doug Kysar. “Jack wrote an earlier paper on wolves in our animal law class that analyzed a tort suit involving a harmful attack of a child by a pair of wolf-dog hybrids in South Dakota. He used the case to explore deep questions about the relationship between narrative and law, the social constructs of ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ animals, and the powerful role that animal scapegoating has played in human history. It was a wonderful paper that showed his deep intellectual engagement with the way our treatment of nonhuman animals reveals so much about us as humans.”

Before taking his current position at Georgetown, Whiteley clerked for Judge Richard R. Clifton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and was a litigation associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. These varied experiences all within his first five years after graduation from Yale Law School have left Whiteley with a sense of possibility, gratitude, and advice for current students. 

“I would encourage law students to think about the different ways in which one can produce positive legal and political change,” Whiteley said. “Federal litigation is a familiar way that’s often emphasized during law school, but advocacy can take many forms. It can be helpful to take time in law school to think about what kind of jobs are likely to be meaningful and even joyful in the long term. But I would also not put too much pressure on your first job out of law school. It is often possible to adjust later. Working as a litigation associate at a law firm, for example, can give you valuable skills that can be transferred to other contexts. Getting a job in this field involves luck, and I have been very lucky!” 

The Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School works to produce scholarship about the legal, scientific, and moral questions raised by humanity’s treatment of other animals, and to empower Yale scholars and students to create positive legal and political change for animals, people, and their environment.