The Federalist Society presented the 2016 Paul M. Bator Award on Saturday, February 27, to Prof. Tara Leigh Grove of William & Mary Law School. The award is given annually to a law professor under the age of 40 who has demonstrated excellence in legal scholarship, a commitment to teaching, a concern for students, and who has made a significant public impact.

Professor Grove received the award at the Federalist Society’s annual National Student Symposium, held this year at the University of Virginia School of Law. Mr. Jeremy Maltz, a student at the University of Chicago Law School who served on the selection committee presented the award.

Professor Grove teaches and writes about Federal Courts and the structural provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Her work has been published in top law journals, including the Harvard Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Cornell Law Review. She is also the only untenured faculty member at the law school to receive the Plumeri award, a University-wide award given by William & Mary for excellence in teaching.

The Bator Award was established in memory of Professor Paul M. Bator, a renowned scholar and teacher of federal courts and constitutional law at Harvard and the University of Chicago and Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the Reagan Administration.  

In presenting Professor Grove with the award, Mr. Maltz said that she “exhibits a passion for exploring tough questions” in the classroom. He noted that he “suspect[ed] that Professor Bator would be very pleased that this award is going to a federal courts scholar whose work is very much in the tradition of his own. He also suggested that “Justice Scalia [who had been scheduled to deliver the keynote speech the evening Professor Grove received the award] would be very pleased that this award is going to someone whose academic work has focused so strongly on the structural constitution.”

Prof. Grove has received rave reviews from her students, who say she “truly fosters precise, deep, and analytical thinking” and “brings an enthusiasm to class that is infectious and makes it hard not to spend numerous hours preparing for each class period just to be able to match her level of intensity.” One student remarked that in teaching the Commerce Clause, Prof. Grove’s “engaging method of cold-calling and poignant, fun, examples [helped foster] a healthy and active environment for learning the most fundamental subject in our country’s jurisprudence.”

In accepting the award, Prof. Grove expressed gratitude for the mentors who pushed her and challenged her throughout her career, particularly Prof. John Manning of Harvard Law School, a former recipient of the award, who has become “a very dear friend” to her. “Even today,” she said, “I continue to be helped by people in legal academia who are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to assist a budding academic.”

She acknowledged that the award “is not simply a tremendous honor, although it certainly is that. It’s also setting expectations for the future.” Her hope, she said, “is to continue to improve, not only as a scholar and a teacher but also one day to serve as a mentor to future budding legal academics because I think we all need someone to show us the ropes.”

Prof. Grove received her undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Duke University. After teaching English in Japan for a year, she attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated magna cum laude and served as the Supreme Court Chair of the Harvard Law Review. She clerked for Judge Emilio Garza on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and then spent four years as an appellate attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, where she argued fifteen cases in the courts of appeals. Prior to joining the William and Mary Law School faculty in 2011, she was Assistant Professor of Law at Florida State University College of Law. 

Prof. Grove joins a distinguished group of professors honored with the Bator Award since its creation in 1989.

William & Mary Law School's press release can be found here.