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Faculty and Scholarship

Darren Hutchinson Named Inaugural John Lewis Chair For Civil Rights And Social Justice

Susan Clark, Emory Law |

Acclaimed legal scholar and social justice advocate Darren Lenard Hutchinson has been named the Emory University School of Law inaugural John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice. He will join the faculty July 1, 2021. 

Civil rights and social justice are the central focus of Hutchinson’s research, teaching, administrative work, and community engagement. He is currently the Raymond & Miriam Ehrlich Eminent Scholar at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and is widely known among legal academics and scholars in other fields for the rigor of his work and his sustained commitment to analyzing and remedying inequality.

“Throughout his years of groundbreaking research, Professor Hutchinson has explored the intersection of law, social justice, and civil rights and developed solutions to systemic failures that have impacted marginalized communities,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “His expertise aligns perfectly with Emory’s mission to serve humanity and our strategies to support social justice research and prepare the next generation of leaders." 

“As our nation’s communities continue to grapple with the racism and social and civil justice issues Congressman Lewis dedicated his life to solving, it seems especially fitting to announce Professor Hutchinson’s appointment to our faculty,” says Emory Law Dean Mary Anne Bobinski. “We look forward to providing a home in Atlanta, one of the birthplaces of the civil rights movement, for Professor Hutchinson’s work and supporting him in creating a center for civil rights and social justice where he may conduct research, promote teaching, convene the community, invite collaboration, and offer policy solutions on the many challenging issues facing our society.”

The John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice is intended to serve as a lasting tribute to the legacy of “good trouble” advocated by the late congressman from Georgia’s Fifth District and establish Emory Law as a leader in teaching, research, and community activism related to civil rights and social justice.

“Emory offers an exceptional platform for my work on social justice,” says Hutchinson. “Its excellent reputation and location in Atlanta will allow me to collaborate with many institutions and individuals committed to social justice research and policies. I am particularly excited that Emory has provided resources to build a center for the study of civil rights and social justice. Doing this work in the name of John Lewis, a legendary civil rights hero, is deeply inspiring and humbling.” 

Hutchinson’s pioneering research crosses many academic disciplines and looks at the impact of law on a wide range of civil rights and social justice issues. His scholarship emphasizes the importance of viewing inequality as a multidimensional concept. “I launched my academic career publishing a series of articles that examine the implications of intersecting racism and heterosexism for social justice policy,” he says. “In order to understand the magnitude of harms racism causes, we must also examine sources of subordination that are intertwined with race, such as class, sexual and gender identity, and gender.”

Hutchinson’s current research continues to shine light on the complexity of subordination. “My scholarship uses social science theories of racism and judicial behavior to demonstrate how legal rules and institutions perpetuate racial inequality. Interdisciplinarity has always been and will remain a vital component of my research.”

Hutchinson’s scholarship has appeared in many prestigious journals, including the Yale Law Journal, California Law Review (forthcoming), Cornell Law Review, UCLA Law Review, and Washington University Law Review.  

Before joining Levin College of Law, Hutchinson held tenured faculty positions at American University Washington College of Law and Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. He received a JD from Yale Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Following law school, he was a litigation associate at the New York City office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton.  He also served as law clerk to the late Honorable Mary Johnson Lowe, US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The creation of the John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice was made possible by an anonymous $1.5 million gift to Emory Law in 2015. The law school then successfully raised an additional $500,000 to fully endow the chair. “We are thrilled that Professor Hutchinson will be joining Emory Law,” says Jan Love, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Professor Hutchinson’s appointment and the endowment of the John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice come at a pivotal time for our university, our city, and beyond. His leadership and contributions will help further distinguish Emory Law as a center for racial and social justice and aid our community as we further engage to examine our past, reckon with our history and model change for the future.”    

Emory Law Associate Professor Fred Smith led the national search to find the inaugural chair and described Hutchinson a rigorous and courageous scholar.

“In the fields of equal protection, LGBTQ rights, and Critical Race Theory, he has authored creative, nuanced works that have come to be regarded as classics,” Smith says. “He is an ideal person to help connect social justice debates in legal scholarship with urgent questions in public policy. As the inaugural John Lewis Chair of Civil Rights and Social Justice, I have no doubt that he will contribute mightily to the creation of the ‘Beloved Community.’”

Smith was assisted by other members of the law school’s Appointments Committee, comprised of professors Melissa Carter, Richard Freer, Rafael Pardo, Joanna Shepherd, Jonathan Nash (fall), and Kristin Johnson (spring), and Emory Law student Thuy My Do 22L. A special Recruitment Committee was formed to give broad input into the search process and support making connections across the university and the community. Members included Michael Collins, former chief of staff for Representative Lewis and distinguished faculty from across Emory: Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies, Chair of African American Studies; Robert Franklin, James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership, senior advisor to the Emory University president; Michael Leo (Milo) Owens, associate professor of Political Science; and Kathy Yount, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Global Health.