2020 Henry M. Phillips Prize

The Phillips Prize Certificate

Autumn General Meeting
Owen M. Fiss

The recipient of the 2020 Henry M. Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence is Owen M. Fiss, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale University.  The citation reads: “In recognition of his lifetime of contributions to American law and jurisprudence, most especially his inspirational interpretation of legal equality in terms of overcoming and resisting social stratification; his path-breaking explication of how courts might realize constitutional values in the real world of government institutions; his global writings illuminating human rights as ideals rooted in both universal principles and national self-determination; his mentorship of generations of legal scholars, both in the United States and abroad; and his abiding faith in the power of law to light our way toward a just future.”

In the course of his long, productive, and influential career, Owen Fiss has been a deep student of civil procedure, teaching the American legal system about judicial remedies addressing systemic wrongs as well as the essentials of public law adjudication. He led the way in proposing revolutionary new understandings of the theory and application of antidiscrimination law, advocating that it become an instrument for the removal of structural conditions of inequality. He has been a profound student of the war on terror, illuminating how it might be brought to heel by the values of the rule of law. He has been a force for legal reform throughout Latin America. He has proposed an influential reinterpretation of the First Amendment that emphasizes the social functions of speech in a democracy. He has authored important reinterpretations of American constitutional history. 

Established in 1888, the Henry M. Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence is awarded in recognition of outstanding lifetime contributions to the field of jurisprudence and important publications which illustrate that accomplishment.  In the 125 years since its inception, the Society has bestowed the prize only 26 times.

The selection committee was Linda Greenhouse, (chair), President of the American Philosophical Society and Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence, Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School; Jane C. Ginsburg, Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, Columbia Law School; Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor, Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, Harvard Law School; Robert C. Post, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School; Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago Law School; and David S.Tatel, United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.