Matheson Wins 2009 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize

Presidential Constitutionalism in Perilous Times by Scott M. Matheson, Jr., a Professor of Law (and former Dean) at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, has won the 2009 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize.

The prize was established in 2007 to honor an exemplary work of scholarship exploring the tension between civil liberties and national security in contemporary American society. Matheson, whose book was published in February 2009 by Harvard University Press, will present his work at Chicago-Kent on November 20.

“I’m pleasantly surprised because I didn’t know my book had been nominated, and I’m deeply honored,” Matheson said. “I want to thank the S.J. Quinney College of Law and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for supporting my work on this project.”

Presidential Constitutionalism in Perilous Times explores the use of presidential power in times of crisis. The book analyzes executive branch actions that have raised serious constitutional concerns about individual liberties and separation of powers. It examines Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson’s enforcement of the Espionage Act of 1917 during World War I, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s evacuation and internment of West Coast Japanese during World War II, Harry S. Truman’s seizure of the steel mills during the Korean War, and George W. Bush’s implementation of torture, surveillance, and detention programs in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The book offers guidance for presidents to balance security and liberty within our constitutional framework, with emphasis on the working relationships among the branches of government.

“This is wonderfully well-deserved recognition for an elegant work,” added Hiram E. Chodosh, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Utah, “one that fortifies the constitutional foundations for regulating executive power in terrifying times.”

Matheson holds the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair in Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. He served as dean from 1998 to 2006, and as associate dean for academic affairs from 1990 to 1993.  He was the United States Attorney for the District of Utah from 1993 to 1997. Prior to joining the faculty in 1985, he was an associate at the Washington, D.C., firm of Williams & Connolly.

During the 2006-07 academic year, Professor Matheson served as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. During 1988-89, he worked as deputy county attorney for Salt Lake County as part of a faculty exchange program, and during 1989-90 he was a visiting associate professor in the Frank Stanton Chair on the First Amendment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

A native of Utah, Professor Matheson received an A.B. degree in economics from Stanford University, an M.A. in modern history from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Benefactor Roy Palmer, a lawyer and real estate developer, is a 1962 honors graduate of Chicago-Kent and a member of its board of overseers. He and his wife, Susan, active in numerous civic, social and philanthropic organizations, are the recipients of the 1997 Outstanding Individual Philanthropist Award of the National Society of Fundraising Executives. In 2006, the Palmers pledged a $1 million gift to the law school.

The $10,000 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize is designed to encourage and reward public debate among scholars on current issues affecting the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of governments throughout the world. Previous prize recipients include constitutional scholars David D. Cole and Jules L. Lobel for their book Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror (The New Press), and Harold H. Bruff for Bad Advice: The President’s Lawyers in the War on Terrorism (University Press of Kansas).