The Federalist Society is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2022 Joseph Story Award is Professor Chris Walker of The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. The annual award recognizes a young academic (ten years or less on the tenure track or 40 and under) who has demonstrated excellence in legal scholarship, a commitment to teaching, a concern for students, and who has made a significant public impact in a manner that advances the rule of law in a free society. It is named for Joseph Story, who was appointed to the Supreme Court at the age of 32, served as the first Dane Professor of Law at Harvard, and wrote the Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. It is the successor to the Paul M. Bator Award, established in 1989 in memory of Professor Bator for similar purposes.

Chloe Zagrodzky, a student at the University of Chicago Law School and the 2022 Joseph Story Award Chair there, presented the award to Professor Walker on March 5th at the Federalist Society’s 2022 National Student Symposium.  The symposium was hosted by the University of Virginia Law School’s Federalist Society student chapter.

Ms. Zagrodzky began by noting that Professor Walker has all the qualities the Joseph Story award seeks to recognize “in spades.”   “[His] administrative law scholarship has extraordinary depth and breadth,” as well as “impact,” Ms. Zagrodzky said.  In addition, she pointed out that his “leadership extends outside of his writing.” Professor Walker played a role in founding the Yale Journal on Regulation’s blog, “Notice & Comment,” and he has served as co-editor of Jotwell’s Administrative Law Section, chair of the ABA’s Section of Administrative law and Regulatory Practice, a public member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an academic fellow working for Senator Orrin Hatch on the Senate Judiciary Committee for now-Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, and chair of the Ohio Senators’ bipartisan judicial advisory commission.

Finally, Ms. Zagrodzky described Professor Walker’s extraordinary dedication to his students. She praised his efforts to further his students’ professional development, highlighting his leadership in Ohio State’s Washington DC summer program, in which “he has placed more than 150 students in internships in DC.” Zagrodsky closed her remarks with testimony from one of Professor Walker’s instudents.  This student wrote:  “Professor Walker, more than any professor I’ve ever had, wants his students to succeed—as lawyers, as advocates, as lifelong learners, and, most importantly, as people. … [H]e devotes the majority of his time to the cause of helping his students in and out of the classroom, from the moment he meets them until long after they graduate.   He’s a terrific professor and an even better person.”

In accepting the award, Professor Walker noted that he was deeply honored to receive it, “especially from the Federalist Society as its mission has shaped so much of my first decade as a law professor.” “As a teacher and a scholar,” Professor Walker continued, “my overarching goal has been to identify and magnify voices and ideas such that every perspective is heard and examined.”  

In his remarks, Professor Walker focused on a “processing error” human beings are prone to: the “fundamental attribution error.” He explained: “the idea here is that we tend to overemphasize the internal characteristics of an individual … when trying to understand that individual’s behavior in a given situation. And we tend to underemphasize, if not completely ignore, external factors that may better explain the behavior.” “In the context of understanding ideas,” he continued, “this processing error leads us to attack the person or the strawman of the argument, instead of seeking to understand the best version of the argument being made.” This does “serious damage in the classroom, in the legal academy, and of course in the real world.”  “It  severely limits our ability to objectively examine and explore ideas with which we may not be familiar” and “inhibits the search for truth and understanding.” 

But lawyers, Professor Walker noted, are particularly well trained to combat the fundamental attribution error.  Their responsibilities to their clients, Professor Walker said, require them to put themselves in other people’s shoes and “develop the analytic skills to present the best version of any argument or idea.”  Moreover, when making an argument that goes against the grain, “because lawyers are among those best equipped to combat fundamental attribution error … we also have a responsibility to help others to overcome it.” That often involves “replacing knee-jerk judgments with an open mind,” and “giving others the benefit of the doubt, even when they have greatly offended us.”

“To me,” Professor Walker concluded, “this is the essence of the Federalist Society’s mission at its finest: … to focus on understanding and examining arguments in their best light – even when they are unartfully expressed or when they are advanced by those who may offend us. As we leave this amazing National Student Symposium tonight, I hope we will each commit to model that mission in our own lives and careers.”

Christopher J. Walker is the John W. Bricker Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where he teaches Administrative Law, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Litigation, the Ethics of Washington Lawyering, Federal Courts, Legal Analysis and Writing (LAW II), Legislation and Regulation, and State and Local Government Law.  His research focuses primarily on administrative law, regulation, and law and policy at the agency level. His articles have appeared in the California Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and University of Pennsylvania Law Review, among others. His piece, Legislating in the Shadows, was selected as the recipient of the 2016 American Association of Law Schools Scholarly Papers Competition Award. His book, Constraining Bureaucracy Beyond Judicial Review, is forthcoming with the Cambridge University Press.

Prior to joining the law faculty in 2012, Professor Walker worked in all three branches of the federal government as well as in private practice.  He clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court. He also worked for several years at a litigation boutique in Washington, D.C., as well as on the Civil Appellate Staff at the U.S. Department of Justice. Professor Walker received his law degree from Stanford, a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a bachelor's from Brigham Young University.  At Stanford, he served as managing editor of the Stanford Law Review and editor-in-chief of the Stanford Law and Policy Review.

Professor Walker joins a distinguished group of professors honored with this award and its predecessor.

A video of the virtual award presentation, together with the text of Professor Walker’s and Ms. Zagrodsky’s remarks may be found on this page shortly.

Video of Presentation of 2022 Joseph Story Award to Professor Chris Walker

Text of Professor Chris Walker’s remarks

Text of Story Award University of Chicago Chair Chloe Zagrodzsky’s remarks

Joseph Story Award Interview (forthcoming)

Note from the Editor: The Federalist Society takes no positions on particular legal and public policy matters. Any expressions of opinion are those of the author. To join the debate, please email us at [email protected].