Professors Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis ’66 to Receive 2014 Biennial Book Award from the Order of the Coif

Every two years, the Order of the Coif selects a book of the “highest order of legal scholarship” to recognize.  The 2014 award goes to Professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis ’66 for their book, Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms (Yale University Press, 2011).

Patricia A. Cain, Professor of Law at Santa Clara University and Chair of the Coif Book Award Committee, said that the committee quickly came to the consensus that Representing Justice was the most creative book on a legal topic published in the past two years.  “It is a bold and original book,” said Cain. “Yale University Press is to be commended for publishing this unique work.”

As the book details, adjudication is an ancient practice, but the development of courts as egalitarian venues is a modern innovation. Representing Justice maps the relationship between courts and democracy by tracing the remarkable run of the political icon of Justice and the development of segregated, purpose-built public spaces dedicated to justice – today’s courthouses. The authors analyze how democracy has both changed adjudication and now challenges it profoundly, with millions of people currently identifying courts as avenues for redress.  Thus courts, while venerable, are now also vulnerable. The book underscores that “law’s institutional forms need to be structured to teach members of polities to make claims on justice as well as to seek justice – so as to have the capacity to contest and to understand what law can and should do.” 

A New York Times review described the book’s range (mingling “Supreme Court citations with interviews of contemporary artists like Tom Otterness and Jenny Holzer”) as providing an “academic treatise on threats to the modern judiciary” and “an obsessive’s tour of Western art through the lens of the law.”  Another commentator described Representing Justice as “both gripping narrative and deep meditation; there is no other book remotely like it.”

Representing Justice has been the recipient of several other honors, including the 2012 SCRIBES award from the American Society of Legal Writers; 2012 PROSE awards given by the American Publishers Association in two categories - Social Sciences category and Law & Legal Studies; and selected as an Outstanding Academic Title of 2012 by Choice Magazine.

The Yale Journal of Law and Humanities devoted a symposium, Representing and Contesting Ideologies of the Public Spheres in 2012 to essays related to the book Representing Justice.  That year, Professors Resnik and Curtis gave the annual lecture for the Supreme Court Historical Society, and their essay Inventing Democratic Courts: A New and Iconic Supreme Court, has just been published in volume 38 of the Journal of Supreme Court History (2013).

Professor Resnik is the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where she teaches about federalism, procedure, courts, incarceration, equality, and citizenship. Her other books include Migrations and Mobilities: Citizenship, Borders, and Gender (co-editor, Seyla Benhabib, New York University Press, 2009), which also won a CHOICE award. Professor Resnik is a member of the American Philosophical Society, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and holds an honorary appointment as a Visiting Professor on the law faculty of the University College London. She was a recipient in 1998 of the ABA’s Margaret Brent Award and in 2013 of the Arabella Babb Mansfield Award, the highest tribute paid by the National Association of Women Lawyers. Professor Resnik is also an occasional litigator and has testified many times before Congress. She graduated from NYU Law School, where she was a Hays Fellow, and from Bryn Mawr College.

At Yale, Professor Resnik was a founding co-chair of the Women Faculty Forum in 2001; at the Law School, she was the founding director of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program. When it began in 1997-98, the Liman Program supported one public interest fellowship for a Yale Law School graduate. Under her tutelage, the program has grown; as of this year, 94 graduates will have held one-year fellowships to work in public interest jobs around the United States; more than 250 students from Yale, Princeton, Spelman, Brown, Harvard, and Barnard have received support for summer Liman fellowships.  In addition, she co-teaches the Liman Workshop, a seminar each semester, with Hope Metcalf, the Liman Director, and they shape a conference annually. Professor Resnik also now chairs Yale’s Global Constitutional Seminar, a part of the Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights.

Dennis Curtis is Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. He teaches courses on sentencing and on professional ethics of lawyers and the media. Professor Curtis was one of the pioneers of clinical education in the 1970s, creating Yale Law School’s first programs in which faculty supervised students working with indigent clients in a variety of contexts so as to gain insights into an area of substantive law in an administrative-regulatory context.  His focus was on post-conviction remedies for prisoners.  Professor Curtis graduated from the United States Naval Academy and from Yale Law School (1966). He served in submarines, and after entering Yale Law School, was the managing editor of the Yale Law Journal. When teaching in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, Professor Curtis was the first president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, which regulated campaign financing in that city.   

Professors Resnik and Curtis join several other Yale Law professors who have won the Coif award, including Professor Robert C. Ellickson ’66 for The Household: Informal Order Around the Hearth, Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes; Professor John H. Langbein for The Origins of Adversary Criminal Trial; Professor Jerry Mashaw was recognized for Greed, Chaos, and Governance: Using Public Choice to Improve Public Law; Professor Grant Gilmore for Security Interests in Personal Property; and former Dean Guido Calabresi ’58, for A Common Law for the Age of Statutes.

Representing Justice was published in the Yale Law Library Series in Legal History and Reference, with financial support as well as extensive research and technical support from the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The Coif Award will be presented at the Annual Association of American Law Schools meeting in January. The Order of the Coif is the legal academy’s scholastic society that honors students, lawyers, judges, and teachers attained high distinction for their scholarly or professional accomplishments.