Faculty Profiles

Polly J.  Price

Polly J. Price

Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, Professor of Global Health

Areas of Expertise

Immigration and Citizenship, Legal History, Legislation and Regulation, Public Health Law

Curriculum Vitae

Assistant: Daniel Kim

Polly J. Price, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, is also Professor of Global Health in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. A public health law scholar as well as a legal historian and citizenship and immigration law expert, she has published, lectured, and taught widely about immigration and citizenship, public health law and regulatory policy, federalism, property rights, and the judiciary.

In 2017, Price was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, a distinction awarded to a small group of scholars, journalists, and authors whose work addresses the most pressing issues of our day and serves to strengthen US democracy. Her fellowship-supported project will result in a book (forthcoming from Beacon Press) about the ways epidemics have shaped US law and continue to pose challenges for disease control in democratic societies. 

Price’s scholarship has been recognized most recently with the 2019 Hughes-Gossett Award from the US Supreme Court Historical Society, and in 2016 she was invited to deliver the Leon Silverman Lecture at the US Supreme Court. Previous awards include a 2013 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for work in public-health law and the Ben F. Johnson Faculty Excellence Award, presented triennially by Emory Law.

Price is the author of two books and dozens of journal articles, book chapters, editorials, and reviews. Her most recent book, Judge Richard S. Arnold: A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench (Prometheus Books, 2009), includes a foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a front-cover endorsement by former President Bill Clinton.

Beyond the academy, Price has been honored by election to both the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation. Since 2013 she has worked with public health agencies along the US–Mexico border, including the United States–México Border Health Commission and the US–Mexico Binational TB-ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) at the University of New Mexico.

Before joining the Emory Law faculty in 1995, Price clerked for Judge Richard S. Arnold of the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals and then practiced law for several years at King & Spalding in Atlanta and Washington, DC. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Emory College, where she earned both BA and MA degrees with highest honors, including a year of study at St. Andrews University on the prestigious Bobby Jones scholarship. Price attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated with honors in 1989. While at Harvard, Price was a senior editor on the Harvard Women’s Law Journal and served as a teaching fellow in an undergraduate history course.

At Emory, Price teaches Citizenship and Immigration Law, Legislation and Regulation, American Legal History, Global Public Health Law, and Latin American Legal Systems. Through Coursera, she has taught a MOOC on Citizenship and US Immigration, drawing a worldwide enrollment of 24,000 students. Her visiting appointments have taken her to the University of Alabama College of Law, Vanderbilt Law School, the Technische Universität in Dresden, and New Mexico State University.

She has delivered invited lectures throughout the United States and at the Free University of Berlin, and she was an invited speaker at the first Global Forum on Statelessness, held at The Hague in 2014. Under the auspices of the Rule of Law Project of the US State Department, Price was the US representative to the first Equality Law Conference for South African Judges and Magistrates, in Pretoria, South Africa. At Emory she collaborates with faculty colleagues in the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center and a multi-school tuberculosis consortium.

Select Publications: “Immigration Policy and Public Health,” Indiana Health Law Review (2019); “A ‘Chinese Wall’ at the Nation’s Borders: Justice Stephen Field and The Chinese Exclusion Case,” Journal of Supreme Court History (2018); “Epidemics, Outsiders, and Local Protection: Federalism Theater in the Era of the Shotgun Quarantine,” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law (2016); “Infecting the Body Politic: Observations on Health Security and the ‘Undesirable’ Immigrant,” Immigration and Nationality Law Journal (2016; reprint—selected as a seminal article of 2015); “If Tuberculosis Spreads ...,” The New York Times (July 8, 2014); “Mapp v. Ohio Revisited: A Law Clerk’s Diary,” Journal of Supreme Court History  (2010); “Stateless in the United States: Current Reality and a Future Prediction,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law  (2013);  and Property Rights: Rights and Liberties Under the Law (ABC–CLIO, 2003). 

Education: JD, Harvard Law School, 1989; BA/MA, Emory University, 1986.


Judge Richard S. Arnold: A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench (Prometheus Books, 2009).

Property Rights: Rights and Liberties under the Law (ABC-Clio, 2003).

Book Chapters 

Jus Soli and Statelessness: A Comparative Perspective from the Americas, in Benjamin N. Lawrance and Jacqueline Stevens, eds., Citizenship in Question: Evidentiary Birthright and Statelessness (Duke University Press 2017) (lead chapter)

United States-Mexico Border Health Commission, Legal Guide to Continuity of Care for Tuberculosis [produced through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation] (2014).

Teaching Comparative Legal History: Latin American Legal Systems, in Robert M. Jarvis, ed., Teaching Legal History: Comparative Perspectives (London: Wildy & Sons 2014).

Stability and Change in Antebellum Property Law:  Stare Decisis in Judicial Rhetoric, in Alfred L. Brophy and Daniel W. Hamilton, eds., The Transformation of Legal History:  Essays in Honor of Professor Morton J. Horwitz (Harvard University Press 2008).

Journal Articles

“Immigration Policy and Public Health,” Indiana Health Law Review (2019)

“A ‘Chinese Wall’ at the Nation’s Borders: Justice Stephen Field and The Chinese Exclusion Case,” Journal of Supreme Court History (2018)

“Infecting the Body Politic: Observations on Health Security and the ‘Undesirable’ Immigrant,” Immigration and Nationality Law Journal (2016; reprint—selected as a seminal article of 2015)

"Epidemics, Outsiders, and Local Protection: Federalism Theater in the Era of the Shotgun Quarantine", 19 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 369 (2016) 

"Quarantines and Liability in the Context of Ebola", 131(3) Public Health Reports 500 (2016) 

"Infecting the Body Politic: Observations on Health Security and the “Undesirable” Immigrant", 63 Kan. L. Rev. 916 (2015) (symposium issue)

"Public Health Control Measures in Response to Global Pandemics and Drug Resistance", 43 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 49 (2015)

"Sovereignty, Citizenship, and Public Health in the United States", 17 New York University Journal of Legislation & Public Policy 919 (2014).

"Toward Proportional Deportation", 63 Emory Law Journal Online (2014).

"Stateless in the United States: Current Reality and a Future Prediction", 46 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 443 (2013); Immigration and Nationality Law Journal (Reprint Selection) (2014).

"Federalization of the Mosquito: Structural Innovation in the New Deal Administrative State", 60 Emory Law Journal 325 (2010).

"Mapp v. Ohio Revisited: A Law Clerk’s Diary", 35 Journal of Supreme Court History 54-70 (2010).

"Full Faith and Credit and the Equity Conflict", 84 Virginia Law Review 747-842 (1998).

"Natural Law and Birthright Citizenship in Calvin’s Case (1608)", 9 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 73-145 (1997).


“If Tuberculosis Spreads ...,” The New York Times (July 8, 2014)


Opinions and Essays

Book Review: Saving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights, in Journal of American History, by Maurice C. Daniels (forthcoming 2015).

"If Tuberculosis Spreads ...," The New York Times, July 8, 2014.

"Tuberculosis is Back, and Nastier than Ever," Newsweek, November 26, 2013.

"Dodson v. Arkansas Activities Association," in The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture (Butler Center for Arkansas Studies 2014).

Book Review: Common Law, History, and Democracy in America, 1790- 1900: Legal Thought before Modernism, in Journal of American History 98: 1152-53 (2012).

"The Classical Foundations of David Bederman" (reviewing The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution: Prevailing Wisdom), 61 Emory Law Journal (2012).


“Courageous Leadership,” for Emory University’s Wise Heart Society, National Center for Civil and Human Rights (March 26, 2015).

"Ebola and the Law in the US and West Africa: Treatment, Vaccine Development, and Ethics," at the Emory Ebola Faculty and Community Discussion Forum (February 23, 2015).

“Pandemic Disease and Quarantine: Legal and Ethical Considerations,” at Emory Alumni Association “Back to Class,” Miami, Florida (January 24, 2015).

“International Law and Pandemic Disease,” (panelist) at “Domestic and International Issues Relating to the Ebola Virus,” held at the University of Georgia School of Law (January 21, 2015).

“Patient Data, Confidentiality, and Jurisdictional Constraints: Lessons Learned from Tuberculosis Control Measures,” at Radiology Grand Rounds, Emory University Hospital (January 14, 2015).

“Law in the Hot Zone: Legal Responses to Infectious Disease,” (co-presenter) at Lamar Inn of Court, King & Spalding (January 13, 2015).

“Immigration and Family Law,” at the 15th Annual Legal Ethics and Professionalism Symposium, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University (November 14, 2014).

“Reimagining Asylum: Alternative Narratives of Flight in Sacred Scripture,” at the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, San Diego, California (November 24, 2014).

“Statelessness in the Americas,” at the First Global Forum on Statelessness, The Hague, the Netherlands (September 17, 2014).

Judge Richard S. Arnold: A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench

Polly Price is the author of two books and numerous articles in American legal history, citizenship, property rights, and the judiciary. Her most recent book, Judge Richard S. Arnold: A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench, includes a Foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a front cover blurb by former President Bill Clinton. C-SPAN2’s Book TV featured Price’s book in 2009. 

Quick Links

♦ Arkansas Lawyer, page 26 »  

♦ Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence lists recent authors and projects in their writing and research program »  

♦ “The Best and Worst of 2009 in Politics and Blogging,” the Arkansas News listed Judge Richard S. Arnold:  A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench as its “Favorite Arkansas Political Book” for 2009 »

♦ The July 2009 issue of Trial, the monthly publication of the American Association of Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, ATLA), features a book review of Judge Richard S. Arnold by Kevin Shehan. The full citation is vol. 45, pp. 62-63 (July 2009). I am grateful to the publisher for permission to post the review here:



Kevin Shehan 

Copyright © 2009 by the American Association for Justice; Kevin Shehan

Emory University School of Law Professor and Associate Dean Polly Price presents the life of a preeminent modern jurist in her biography Judge Richard S. Arnold: A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench. In this, her second book, Price shows the late Judge Arnold to be worthy of the superlative praise he has received from an impressive chorus: presidents, members of Congress, justices and jurists, and former legal and political opponents.

Richard Sheppard Arnold, who at his death in 2004 was a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and Price’s former employer (she was his law clerk from 1989 to 1991), is probably most noted for his First Amendment jurisprudence. Perhaps he will be most remembered as the modern-day Learned Hand, as editorialist Paul Greenberg wrote, calling Arnold “the greatest American jurist of his time not to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.”

But Price reminds us what may be most prized about Arnold. He was a brilliant jurist and paragon of judicial temperament who thoughtfully addressed the concerns of the parties who came before him through carefully dispensed, legally sound justice.

A Legacy of Justice begins with an elegantly succinct foreword by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She writes that her “generation knew no finer federal judge.”

Price then masterfully marshals the knowledge she gained from Arnold’s private papers, internal court documents, interviews (including interviews with Arnold himself), and other sources both public and private. Through a historical and forensic review of his work, Price shows us Arnold’s contributions to environmental law as a lawyer; to individual rights jurisprudence as a jurist; and to the federal judiciary itself, as the chairman of the Judicial Conference’s budget committee and the judiciary’s emissary to Congress.

Price also presents a candid look at the inner workings of the federal judiciary itself, through the lens of Arnold’s work. And she reveals the politics that drive judicial appointments, through a review of the realities of Arnold’s own appointments–and later his omission from the Supreme Court of the United States for health reasons. When President Clinton chose Justice Stephen Breyer as his final appointee to the Court, he cited Arnold’s lymphoma as the reason Arnold was not selected.

What is most striking about A Legacy of Justice is Price’s use of the details of Arnold’s personal and political life to explain his work. For example, Arnold was a devout Christian. Price hypothesizes that this may have inspired his much-lauded temperament as a jurist.

Price also hypothesizes that, perhaps, Arnold’s personal politics softened as a result of his Supreme Court clerkship for and continuing friendship with Justice William Brennan, whom Price acknowledges as a notable liberal justice. While Arnold was an undergraduate at Yale, before being exposed to Brennan’s influence, he opposed as a matter of states’ rights the desegregation holding of Brown v. Board of Education. But after years of mentoring by Brennan, Arnold championed civil rights and individual liberties.

For instance, in Dodson v. Arkansas Activities Association, Arnold, sitting on the federal district court in Little Rock, held that the half-court high school basketball that Diana Lee Dodson and other girls in Arkansas were required to play violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Women’s college basketball was played full-court nationwide, so these half-court-playing women were at a disadvantage in competing for basketball scholarships against their full-court-playing counterparts. And the only reason for the disadvantage was sex; no boys played half-court basketball.

Members of the trial bar who seek greater understanding of how appellate court decisions are made would do well to read Price’s revelations in A Legacy of Justice. Through compelling descriptions of Arnold’s notable appellate decisions, Price makes good on her promise to provide special insight into the “other court,” the federal circuit courts of appeal. Moreover, her description of the Supreme Court’s decision-making process in Mapp v. Ohio is particularly mesmerizing. That landmark decision, which applied the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule to state prosecutions, was decided while Arnold was Brennan’s law clerk. Price illuminates the tumult and politics involved in majority-making on the Court by presenting it through the eyes of a young but brilliant Arnold.

Price acknowledges that reasonable minds would differ on her presentation based on what she calls the “record” of Arnold’s life. But Price’s work winningly surpasses her modest goal of fairly presenting that record. All told, A Legacy of Justice is a meticulous recitation of Arnold’s life and achievements. It stands firmly as an appropriate tribute to him.

KEVIN SHEHAN is an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for General Law at the U.S. Department of Energy. He is also an adjunct professor in the Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis Department of George Mason University School of Law."

Blog court-o-rama.org, billed as “the least dangerous blog” Click here for books »

♦ Presentation of signed book to University of Havana for its library »

♦ Eighth Circuit Bar Association and Eighth Circuit Historical Association book talk and reception honoring the publication of Judge Richard S. Arnold, A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench.  Audio presentation is here » 

♦ Professor Price addressed the Eighth Circuit bench and bar in St. Louis’ Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse during the Court of Appeals’ court week. Left Bank Books in St. Louis hosted the book signing, www.left-bank.com »

♦ Panel discussion at the 2009 DC Circuit Judicial Conference about preservation of non-official judicial records. (Report by sponsor the DC Circuit Historical society reproduced below, with thanks to George W. Jones of Sidley Austin:

"Preservation of Non-Official Judicial Papers

On Friday, June 5, 2009, members of the DC Circuit Historical Society Committee on Archival Preservation and Historical Research participated in a lively two-hour panel presentation on the preservation of judges’ non-official papers at the DC Circuit Judicial Conference at the Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Committee members Maeva Marcus, Director, Institute for Constitutional Studies, The George Washington University Law School, and Daun van Ee, Historical Specialist, Library of Congress, joined Professor Polly Price, Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Law, Emory Law School and author of Richard Arnold: A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench, and Bruce Ragsdale, Chief Historian, Federal Judicial Center (“FJC”), on the panel. Committee chair George W. Jones, Jr., Sidley Austin LLP served as moderator.

Not surprisingly, one of the most hotly debated topics was the age-old question of whether judges should make any of their work product or communications about cases other than final opinions available to the public. Whether judges should preserve electronic correspondence with colleagues presented this issue in 21st Century garb. Points of view all along the spectrum of opinion were ably represented at the conference. Suffice to say, the historians on the panel had a very different view than some of the judges.

The key “takeaways” from the presentation are:

  • the non-official papers of federal judges may constitute indispensable supplemental material for historians and scholars trying to understand and describe the history of the United States, the operations of the federal judiciary, and the role that individual judges played in the great events of our times; it is impossible to determine today what will be relevant and important to the questions that will be studied 50 years from today;
  • as participating witnesses to the history of the United States, all federal judges – not just those who have established national reputations or who have participated in cases of national import — should consider preserving their non-official papers; it is never too early for a judge to begin thinking about preserving his or her non-official papers;
  • preserving non-official papers is not nearly as burdensome as some may fear;
  • the first step is to identify those repositories that may be most interested in taking a particular judge’s non-official papers; judges who have national reputations or who have handled cases of national significance should consider the Library of Congress; others should consider repository institutions the judge attended or with which the judge has some other relationship, institutions that already have the papers of other judges from the judge’s court, or institutions that have an interest in a particular subject matter that makes up a portion of the judge’s work;
  • some institutions want everything; others may be more selective and can provide useful guidance as to what should be preserved; and
  • concerns about confidentiality or sensitive materials can be addressed by restricting access to the papers for some specified time or limiting access to particular scholars or appointing one or more trustees with authority to determine access to the papers.

The FJC recently completed work on a second edition of A Guide to the Preservation of Federal Judges’ Papers, its useful primer on what types of papers should be preserved and how to go about preserving them. Copies of the recently released second edition were distributed at the conference."

♦ Podcast of panel discussion on judicial biography held at the London School of Economics in 2007 »  The panel featured Neil Duxbury (author of “Jurists and Judges: An Essay on Influence” (Oxford 2001), and “Patterns of American Jurisprudence” (Oxford 1995)), Lisa Jardine, Nicola Lacey, and Geoffrey Lewis.  

♦ October 8, 2009: A video link is available to a recent interview by Steve Barnes, aired on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. This 30-minute conversation, from the series “Steve Barnes and…”, discusses Judge Richard S. Arnold:  A Legacy of Justice on the Federal Bench. Click here »

♦ August 8, 2009: A segment on the Judge Richard S. Arnold biography won CSPAN II’s Book TV. For more details and full schedule, click here »

♦ July 2, 2009: C-SPAN’s Book TV - 45-minute program taped at the Clinton School in May »  

♦ June 7, 2009: Constitutional Law Professor blog »  

♦ May 25, 2009: Clinton School of Public Service » Distinguished Speakers series.

♦ May 17, 2009: Paul Greenberg, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, published an editorial about Judge Richard Arnold in connection with my talk at the Clinton School of Public Service last week.  It appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and at townhall.com » The editorial is titled “Ironies Abound” in the ADG, and “The Lost Light” at www.townhall.com  

♦ April 10, 2009: The Legal History Blog featured the Arnold biography »  

March 11, 2011 The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made available via YouTube a speech given by Judge Richard S. Arnold in 2002 titled “The Art of Judging" »

May 20, 2009: At his farewell address at Georgetown, Justice Souter quoted Judge Richard S. Arnold on the qualities of judging, as reported by Tony Mauro on The BLT: Blog of Legal Times » Scroll down to the final paragraph below:

Souter: Republic is Lost Unless Civic Education Improves

In a speech at Georgetown University Law Center today, retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter made a powerful plea for re-educating the American public about the fundamentals of how government works.
The republic, Souter said, “can be lost, it is being lost, it is lost, if it is not understood.” He cited surveys showing large majorities of the public cannot name the three branches of government, something he said would have been unheard of when he was growing up in rural Weare, N.H. What is needed, Souter said, is nothing less than “the restoration of the self-identity of the American people.”

Souter closed by recalling the late Judge Richard Arnold’s statement about why judicial independence is so important to the nation. He said that at a Philadelphia conference several years ago Arnold, an acclaimed judge on the 8th Circuit who died in 2004, said a strong and independent judiciary was needed because, “There has to be a safe place. There has to be a safe place. That’s all he said.”

January 15, 2009:  The debate over citation to unpublished judicial opinions and their precedential value has been prominent in academic literature since Richard Arnold’s panel opinion inAnastasoff v. United States.

The debate has spread from the federal circuits to some state judiciaries.  Here is a link to a bill proposed in the Arkansas legislature on the subject of unpublished opinions: