Daphna Renan, a scholar of presidential power and administrative governance, has been promoted to professor of law at Harvard Law School, effective July 1.
Renan, who joined the faculty in 2015 as an assistant professor, has emerged as a prominent scholar of public law, from the perspective of administrative and structural constitutional law. Her work integrates legal analysis with political science and other interdisciplinary perspectives on the presidency and executive power. It elucidates presidential practice—in the sense of unwritten norms and informal institutions internal to the presidency—as a part of American public law. Renan’s scholarship explores the centrality of norms in constituting the modern presidency, advances structural and institutional arguments about the role of law inside the executive branch, and builds on the sixteenth-century English doctrine of the “king’s two bodies” to illuminate a tension at the crux of the constitutional office of the President. The work also draws on Renan’s experience working as a lawyer in the executive branch and her ongoing engagement with real-world legal issues and controversies surrounding the presidency and presidential power.
“Professor Renan’s rigorous and institutionally sophisticated scholarship on executive power and the norms that structure the presidency has deepened crucial lines of inquiry in administrative law,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “Her work has also already transformed our understanding of the complex dynamics of separation of powers.”
Renan’s scholarly work has appeared in the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the Virginia Law Review. Her work draws on examples from the national security context but situates these issues in a more encompassing study of presidential structure and process. In attending to these interconnections, Renan offers a more integrated understanding of presidential power as it has come to exist in the post-9/11 age. Renan’s current work investigates the relationship between the charismatic president and the institutional presidency in public law doctrine and constitutional culture—across the development of the American presidency and in the current political moment.
“I am deeply honored to have made HLS my academic home and to engage every day with the law school’s exceptional faculty, students, and staff,” Renan said. “It is a privilege and a joy to be a part of this extraordinary community.”
Renan is also a beloved teacher. This year, Renan was selected by the HLS Class of 2020 to deliver a Last Lecture, an annual tradition sponsored by the 3L and LL.M. class marshals, in which selected faculty members impart insight, advice, and final words of wisdom to the graduating class. In 2019, the HLS Student Government awarded Renan a Teaching and Advising Award.
Prior to joining HLS, Renan was the Alexander Fellow at the New York University School of Law.
Early in her career, from 2009- 2012, she served in the U.S. Department of Justice, first as a counsel to the deputy attorney general and then as an attorney adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel. She also served as a member of President-Elect Barack Obama’s Justice Department transition team.
Renan clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She earned her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she served as an articles editor of the Yale Law Journal, and she received her B.A., graduating summa cum laude, from Yale College.