Stanford Law Professors Honored for Their Scholarship

In December 2022, Stanford Law School (SLS) Professor Pamela Karlan, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law, and SLS Associate Professor Diego Zambrano, received awards for their contributions to their respective areas of focus.

The John Hart Ely Prize in the Law of Democracy

Karlan has received a lifetime achievement award from the Election Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The section’s executive committee presents The John Hart Ely Prize in the Law of Democracy annually to a senior scholar in the field of election law for “extraordinary lifetime contributions to the study of election law and the law of democracy in the United States.”  Karlan is the second recipient of the recently established award.

Pamela S. Karlan 1

“I’m thrilled that my election law colleagues chose to recognize my work,” said Karlan, one of the nation’s leading experts on voting and the political process. “Early in my career, I had the privilege of learning from, and then debating, John Hart Ely about the law of democracy, and now I have the even greater privilege of working in a field with so many talented people doing such important scholarship.”

Karlan serves as co-director of the SLS Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, in which students litigate live cases before the Court. She has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission, an assistant counsel and cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Founded in 1900, the mission of AALS is to uphold and advance excellence in legal education. AALS’s Section on Election Law promotes the communication of ideas, interests, and activities among members and makes recommendations to the AALS on matters of interest in the teaching and improvement of the law relating to election law, voting rights, campaign finance, and related topics.

2023 Civil Justice Scholarship Award

The National Civil Justice Institute honored Zambrano with a 2023 Civil Justice Scholarship Award for his article, Federal Expansion and the Decay of State Courts, 86 U. Chi. L. Rev. 2101 (2019), in which he explored the continued trend of federal judicial expansion into areas of state court power and federal monopolization of large and complex litigation. His article made the original claim that federal expansion may be contributing to the decay of state courts and has reinforced a plaintiff-defendant divergence between the two systems.

The Civil Justice Scholarship Award is given periodically to published legal academics in recognition of their research and writing focused on topics in civil justice, including access to justice and the benefits of the U.S. civil justice system, as well as the right to trial by jury in civil cases. Zambrano will receive the award in February at the NCJI Fellows reception in Phoenix, Arizona.

Diego Zambrano

Zambrano’s article argued that we are in a “third era of judicial federalism, defined by federal judicial expansion into areas of state court power and federal monopolization of large and complex litigation,” coinciding with the decay of state courts. Yet, at a time of federal efforts to circumscribe access to courts, state courts are more important than ever, he argued. Zambrano offered evidence that, in the 1980s and 1990s, the federal government “began to aggressively appropriate state-court litigation,” for instance allowing institutional litigants to opt out of state courts. But, while federal courts have adopted “pro-defendant procedural rules . . . state courts remain relatively pro-plaintiff, leading to a clear divergence between the two systems and a host of normative concerns.”

“The National Civil Justice Institute is a leader in civil justice issues and it is a great honor to be recognized for my article,”  Zambrano said. “The field of civil procedure is increasingly focused on state courts and it is gratifying that my scholarship is playing a role in that shift.”

Zambrano’s teaching and research focuses on civil procedure, transnational litigation, and judicial federalism. His work explores the institutions, norms, and incentives that influence litigant and judicial behavior. He also leads a Stanford Policy Lab practicum on comparative constitutional law.

The National Civil Justice Institute (formerly the Pound Institute) is a national legal nonprofit created by members of the trial bar and dedicated to ensuring access to justice for ordinary citizens. Through its activities, the Institute works to give lawyers, judges, legal educators and the public a balanced view of the issues affecting the U.S. civil justice system.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.