GULC Launches Williams Research Professorships

The Georgetown University Law Center announced the establishment of the Williams Research Professorships on Feb. 3, made possible by a donation from Agnes N. Williams (LAW ’54), the first woman to graduate from Georgetown Law.

The six professorships were created to support recently tenured members of GULC. In order to be eligible for a professorship, Georgetown Law faculty must have had tenure for no more than ten years prior to their appointment. The recipients are selected by GULC Executive Vice President and GULC Dean William M. Treanor based on scholarly work done in and out of Georgetown, as well as the recommendations of a three-person committee.

The committee is comprised of the Associate Dean for Research Josh Teitelbaum and the two most recently installed professorship holders. Faculty members who are appointed to a professorship serve three-year terms and receive a research fund of $10,000 a year. Each year, two more professors are elected. Starting in 2018, there will be six professorship recipients each year.

The Law Center recognized professors Kristin Henning and John Mikhail as the inaugural Williams research professors.

Treanor highlighted the unique nature of the new professorships, which attempt to demonstrate appreciation of newer faculty members.

“The idea for the Williams professorships is different,” Treanor said. “Our focus is on giving a professorship to our newer stars that will both recognize the contribution they’ve made to the Law Center and will help them with their research.”

Treanor emphasized the longevity of the program and its importance in contributing to the Law Center.

“It’s an endowed professorship, so it will be a permanent part of the Law Center landscape,” Treanor said.

Henning serves as director of the Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center and president of the board of directors for the Center for Children’s Law and Policy. She specializes in juvenile justice reform, particularly focusing on the ways implicit racial bias may undermine the advocacy of defense attorneys. Henning also recently developed a 42-lesson curriculum in partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center to train juvenile defenders.

Henning connected the marginalization of minority children to the excess of inequality in the legal system.

“Children of color who perceive that they are being mistreated by the police are going to have less respect for the police and for the law,” Henning said. “If you want people to be compliant with social norms and with the laws of society, you have to treat them with respect and with dignity.”

Henning emphasized her desire to bridge her research and the application of that research through the opportunities provided by the Williams Professorship.

“It’s not research for the sake of research,” Henning said. “It’s research for application, for improving the lives of children.”

Mikhail, whose areas of expertise span from moral psychology to constitutional law, has had research published in various journals. His book “Elements of Moral Cognition: Rawls’ Linguistic Analogy and the Cognitive Science of Moral and Legal Judgment,” argues that there are parallels between the theory of moral cognition and the theory of universal grammar.

Mikhail also recently published an article on the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution.

“The core issue is whether the Constitution vests implied powers in the government of the United States that are not necessarily expressly enumerated in the text,” Mikhail said.

Mikhail expressed interest in organizing one or more conferences at Georgetown and inviting colleagues from around the country to speak to the community about both moral psychology and constitutional history through the opportunities provided by the Williams professorship.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized with this professorship,” Mikhail said. “I am very grateful to Dean Treanor, to the committee that selected me and to Agnes Williams and the Williams family for their generosity.”

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