Legal Historian Farah Peterson To Join Faculty in January

Professor’s First Class Will Explore the Founding Era
Farah Peterson

New faculty member Farah Peterson holds degrees from Princeton and Yale, and has clerked at both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

August 31, 2017

Farah Peterson, a legal historian whose focus has been statutory interpretation, will join the University of Virginia School of Law faculty in January as an associate professor.

Peterson holds a Ph.D. in American history from Princeton University. She earned her J.D. from Yale Law School, and received her bachelor’s in history from Yale as well.

After law school, Peterson clerked for Associate Justice Stephen Breyer at the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Guido Calabresi at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Having begun her path as a historian, “I really thought of going to law school as finishing my graduate education,” Peterson said. “But I fell in love with the intricacies of law and its practice.”

In the spring, Peterson will teach the seminar Legal History of the Founding Era, which will aim to offer students “a rich understanding of the legal and intellectual culture of the founding moments,” from the American Revolution to the ratification of the Constitution.

Professor G. Edward White, UVA Law’s senior legal historian, said Peterson’s early scholarship is thought-provoking and forecasts her as a substantial contributor to the Law School and academia.

“We are delighted to have Farah Peterson joining the Law School faculty and the legal history community at Virginia,” White said. “Her work on statutory interpretation in the nineteenth century is revising the conventional wisdom about that topic in fruitful and stimulating ways. She has great promise as a scholar and will be an excellent addition to our faculty."

Peterson is currently working on a book based on her doctoral dissertation, “Statutory Interpretation and Judicial Authority, 1776-1860.” She is also an associate at the law firm Jones Day.

She said she had intended to practice law for a few more years before seeking a job in academia, but the Law School’s hiring committee found her first.

“It was a delightful surprise,” Peterson said. “I knew some wonderful people who went to UVA Law, and had always heard it was a welcoming community.”

The interview process proved to be a match for both sides. “I loved the people that I met, and I was lucky enough to be offered a job,” she said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

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