Richard J. Lazarus appointed Professor of Law at Harvard

Richard J. Lazarus '79

Richard J. Lazarus ’79

Richard J. Lazarus ’79, one of the nation’s foremost experts on environmental law and also a leading practitioner in the U.S. Supreme Court, will join the Harvard Law School faculty this summer as a tenured Professor of Law.

Lazarus currently teaches environmental law, natural resources law, Supreme Court advocacy and torts as the Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Supreme Court Institute at the Georgetown University Law Center. He also recently served as executive director of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, appointed by President Barack Obama ’91, to investigate the root causes of the Gulf oil spill.

Announcing the appointment of Lazarus to the Harvard Law School faculty, Dean Martha Minow said: “I am thrilled to welcome back to the HLS our alum, Richard Lazarus. Preeminent scholar-practitioner of environmental law, superb Supreme Court advocate, and consummate teacher and mentor. Richard is an all-star. It is fantastic that he will bring his enormous talents and wisdom to this community, where students, faculty, and staff eagerly await his arrival.”

Said Lazarus: “I am thrilled to be returning to Harvard Law School and looking forward to working with Professor Jody Freeman and Professors Cass Sunstein and Wendy Jacobs to build upon the fabulous environmental law program Harvard already enjoys and to fulfill our shared ambition to establish the best environmental law program in the nation,” said Lazarus. “No less exciting, however, is the tremendous opportunity to work closely with HLS students.”

Lazarus joined the Georgetown faculty in 1996, and in addition to his current chair he also held the John Carroll Research Professorship of Law there. He received Georgetown’s 2002 Frank Flegal Teaching Award, a faculty peer award based on a survey of faculty and students. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgetown, he was a member of the faculty at Indiana University Bloomington and at Washington University, where law students honored him with their “best teacher” award.

He returned to Harvard Law School as a visiting professor of law in Winter 2002, and as the Austin Wakeman Scott Visiting Professor of Law in the 2008-2009 academic year and again in Winter 2010.

He also has held visiting appointments at Columbia University, Northwestern University, San Diego, University of Texas, and UCLA, and was a 1999-2000 Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Lazarus has co-taught summer programs on the history of the Supreme Court with Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. ’79 at Galway University in Ireland, through the New England School of Law; University of Innsbruck in Austria, through St. Mary’s School of Law; and in Vienna, Austria, through the Penn State Dickinson School of Law.

He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division and also in the Solicitor General’s Office, where he was Assistant to the Solicitor General. He has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the U.S. Supreme Court in approximately 40 cases, many of which raised natural resource and environmental law issues.

Lazarus’s 2004 publication, The Making of Environmental Law (University of Chicago Press), is widely hailed as the definitive history of the emergence and evolution of modern environmental law in the United States. His most recent written work, as principal author, was Deep Water – The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling – Report to the President of the United States (2011). He has a forthcoming article in the University of Illinois Law Review, and recently published articles (since 2009) in the Cornell Law Review, Yale Law Journal Online, and San Diego Journal of Climate and Energy Law. Environmental Law professors selected his 2009 Cornell Law Review article as one of the best published that year – an award he has received for many of his publications.

“Professor Lazarus is a triple threat – a star Supreme Court litigator; a fabulous teacher and a wonderful scholar. We are lucky to have him,” said Professor Jody Freeman L.L.M. ’91, who is founding director of HLS’s Environmental Law and Policy Program. “This hire leaves no doubt that HLS is the go-to place for environmental law.”

Lazarus holds a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana), where he was Phi Beta Kappa. He also attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a special student in Economics and an advisee of Professor Robert Solow, a Nobel Prize-winning economist; and was also on the varsity tennis team. As a student at Harvard Law School, he served as executive editor of the Harvard Environmental Law Review.