Main content

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


American Legal History, Citizenship and Immigration Law, Global Public Health Law, Legislation and Regulation, Torts


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 book, Plagues in the Nation: How Epidemics Shaped America, was published by Beacon Press in 2022 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 three books and dozens of journal articles, book chapters, editorials, and reviews. 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.