2013 Henry M. Phillips Prize

Autumn General Meeting
Laurence H. Tribe

The 2013 recipient of the American Philosophical Society’s Henry M. Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence is Laurence H. Tribe. The award citation reads "in recognition of his contributions to understanding the United States Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court in its interpretation; in particular his insightful analyses of Constitutional theory including his critique of a literal approach to the text of the document, exploring instead the "dark matter" of values and concepts that compose the invisible constitution, thus giving meaning to the written text, resulting in the masterful synthesis presented in his authoritative treatise, American Constitutional Law."

Laurence Tribe is currently Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. A distinguished legal scholar and world-renowned professor of constitutional law, he has argued many cases before the Supreme Court of the United States – including the historic Bush v. Gore case in 2000 on behalf of presidential candidate Al Gore – and he has testified frequently before Congress on a broad range of constitutional issues. He has prevailed in three-fifths of the many appellate cases he has argued (including 35 in the U.S. Supreme Court). Tribe was appointed in 2010 by President Obama and Attorney General Holder to serve as the first Senior Counselor for Access to Justice. He helped write the constitutions of South Africa, the Czech Republic, and the Marshall Islands. He has written 115 books and articles, including his treatise, American Constitutional Law, cited more than any other legal text since 1950. Among his most acclaimed books are The Invisible Constitution: Inalienable Rights (2008), a powerful account of constitutional interpretation that goes beyond the words of the text to explore the unwritten values and concepts that give it meaning; God Save This Honorable Court: How the Choice of Justices Shape Our History (1985), a critique of judicial restraint which argues that adherence to the constitutional text abdicates judicial responsibility; Constitutional Choices (1986), an appraisal of the Supreme Court’s approach to "balancing of costs and benefits" in cases involving issues of governmental authority and individual rights and advancing the claim that this approach ignores the historic role entrusted to the Court by the Constitution; and Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes (1992), a challenge to the inevitability of permanent conflict on the policy of abortion which tries "to lay the groundwork for moving on" by examining the competing interests of the woman and the unborn children as well as the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the argument as well as assessing the role judges should play in umpiring the political struggles over these issues. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2010.

The Henry M. Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence was established by a gift in 1888 from Emily Phillips of Philadelphia in memory of her brother who had been a member of the Society since 1871. During the first century of the prize it was awarded for the best essay of real merit on the science and philosophy of jurisprudence. From 1986 to 1997, this award recognized the most important publication in the field within a five-year period. In 1999, the criteria for the prize were raised to recognize outstanding lifetime contributions to the field of jurisprudence. In the 125 years since its inception, the Society has bestowed the prize only 25 times.

The selection committee consisted of Herma Hill Kay (chair), Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong Professor of Law, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley; Geoffrey C. Hazard, Miller Professor of Law, University of California Hastings College of Law, Trustee Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Director Emeritus, American Law Institute; Ellen Ash Peters, Judge Trial Referee, Connecticut Appellate Court, Former Chief Justice, Connecticut Supreme Court; Kathleen Sullivan, Partner, Chair of National Appellate Practice, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; and David S. Tatel, United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.