I’m pleased to report that Jennifer Mascott — Assistant Professor and Co-Executive Director of The C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at the Antonin Scalia Law School — has received this year’s Joseph Story Award. This Award is presented annually to a professor with less than ten years of experience in the academy who has “demonstrated excellence in legal scholarship, a commitment to teaching, a concern for students, and who has made a significant public impact in a manner that advances the rule of law in a free society.” Prior recipients include, among others, Will Baude, Tara Leigh Grove, Steve Sachs, Chris Walker, and a bunch of other fantastic scholars.
It is easy to see why Jenn Mascott was selected for this award. In fact, I have identified seven attributes that help make Jenn such a remarkable scholar.
- Horsepower. Jenn is really, really smart. Of course, being smart is not enough to make someone a good law professor, but it helps. Jenn has written a lot — including her significant (and often cited) article in the Stanford Law Review on Who are “Officers of the United States”? But one of my favorite articles of hers is lesser known but really clever: The Dictionary as a Specialized Corpus. When I have a difficult separation-of-powers question, I call her.
- Persistence. Beyond being smart, Jenn works as hard as anyone I know. The “idea generation” part of being a professor is often not that hard. What is hard is the long and tedious process to turn an idea into something more permanent. Jenn puts in the time. Indeed, she is a nose-to-the-grindstone-work-late-and-get-up-early scholar. She writes articles; writes amicus briefs; co-authors a casebook; gives speeches; pens op-eds; goes on television; testifies before Congress; teaches classes; organizes conferences; participates in workshops; and so on. None of that easy.
- Experience. Jenn is great to learn from because she has seen a lot. Not only does she follow academically what’s happening in her field, but she has real-world experience. She served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel and Associate Deputy Attorney General. Among other things, she also serves as a Public Member of the Administrative Conference of the United States. Plus she helps run the Gray Center where she works with scholars, policymakers, and lawyers.
- Curiosity. Jenn is curious, too. She gets excited about ideas and spends a lot of time doing the nitty-gritty work necessary to figure out what is really going on. She also loves to “talk shop” and know what others are working on. Her breadth of knowledge is impressive because she wants to understand and is willing to do what it takes. In my experience, it is rewarding to speak with Jenn because she knows a lot — from a lot of perspectives — about a lot of things.
- Courage. Jenn is also brave — exceptionally so. This includes being willing to defend ideas that are unpopular with most law professors. Her Wall Street Journal letter praising Justice Alito’s opinion in Dobbs took guts. One of my favorite hymns includes the line, “Do what is right; let the consequence follow.” Whether you agree with her or not, she does what she thinks is right and accepts what comes of it.
- Good Faith. At the same time, Jenn acts in good faith. The best kind of courage is not stridency. It requires listening to others and thinking about what they have to say, as well as sharing what you are really thinking. Jenn does that. When she hears new ideas, you can almost watch the gears shifting in her head. And what she has to say is remarkably free from ulterior motives.
- Kindness. Finally, Jenn cares about others. Obviously, it is possible to be a good scholar without this attribute; a mean-spirited curmudgeon can have right answers, too. But kindness is an overlooked scholarly virtue. Why does Jenn work so hard, do so many things, and act with boldness? Because — to her bones — she cares about others and wants to make the world better.
I could go on but you get the point: Jenn deserves this award.
So congratulations, Professor Jennifer Mascott! The academy is lucky to have you and this recognition is more than warranted.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to the official press release.