Notice & Comment

To My Mentor Peter Shane

At the end of this academic year, my friend, mentor, and colleague Peter Shane announced his retirement. Before joining our faculty in 2003, Peter taught at Iowa, Carnegie Mellon, and Pitt (where he was dean from 1994-1998). (He’s also visited at Harvard, Duke, Boston College, and Villanova.) Prior to becoming a full-time law professor, he served as an Attorney-Advisor in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and as Assistant General Counsel at the Office and Management and Budget. Those practice experiences no doubt shaped his scholarly agenda and approach to teaching.

Peter is a giant in the field of administrative law, with a particular emphasis on separation of powers. His law school bio tells us that he’s written more than 60 law review articles and authored or coauthored eight books. His book Madison’s Nightmare: How Executive Power Threatens American Democracy (U. Chicago Press) captures much of his vision for the American presidency—an antiformalist vision where both law and norms constrain presidential power and federal agencies exercise their statutory authority and fulfill their congressional mandates insulated from excessive presidentialism. Peter is currently working on a sequel to Madison’s Nightmare, which I very much look forward to reading.

In this post, however, I want to focus on Peter as a colleague and mentor, as a way to thank him for his impact on my life and career, to help me to commit to follow in his footsteps, and to hopefully inspire other academics to do the same. As I noted when I got tenure, having Peter as a colleague has been one of the greatest blessings of teaching at Ohio State:

Here are a few reasons why:

When I interviewed at Ohio State, Peter and his spouse Martha Chamallas were visiting at Harvard, so he wasn’t there at the callback. But he made sure to reach out. Among other things, he underscored how much he’d love to collaborate with me, work with me, mentor me, and learn from me. I didn’t tell him at the time, but one of the huge draws of Ohio State for me was to have someone of his prominence in my field on the faculty as a potential mentor.

Peter wasn’t exaggerating about how much he’d invest in me as a young scholar. He played a pivotal role in helping me develop a real research agenda, one focused on my passions of exploring the empirical realities of administrative law and regulatory practice. He provided so much feedback, especially at the outset. For instance, he helped me design my survey of agency rule drafters, which led to my first major law review article. He has read and provided feedback on so much of my scholarship over the years and has been an amazing sounding board. 

A couple years in, we started a regular “book club” where the two of us would choose articles and books to read and discuss over lunch. Looking back, I see a careful mentor who was helping me to think bigger and more critically about the field. The conversations from that administrative law book club deepened our daily officemate conversations, in ways that influenced how I think about the field, research, teaching, and public service.

Peter also helped me connect with scholars in the field, in so many ways. When we realized the Chevron decision was turning 30 in 2014, he asked if I’d help co-organize a symposium to reflect on the doctrine. I had only been at Ohio State for a year or so when we decided to organize that symposium, so it was an opportunity for me to meet so many of the prominent scholars in the field (and for them to interact with my scholarship). The Fordham Law Review ended up hosting an amazing live symposium and published a great print issue. Peter generously shared the symposium foreword coauthorship with me.

Peter was always looking for ways to connect me and my scholarship with the field. He recommended to Jotwell that they bring me on as a regular administrative law contributor. He introduced me to the Administrative Conference of the United States and the ABA’s Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice—both of which have played a critical role in my development. Fast forward a few years and when we saw a need for junior scholars to be more connected in the field, a group of us at four schools launched the Annual Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable. Peter played an important senior leadership role in organizing and promoting that Roundtable, which has become a permanent yearly feature in the administrative law field, with more schools rotating on to host and organize.

Then last summer, Peter approached me (in my role as ABA Administrative Law Section Chair) to pitch that the Section launch a Program for Prospective Administrative Law Scholars (PALS) that would create fellowship opportunities to help diversify the field. He and a group of other scholars put together a thoughtful proposal for PALS, which is set to be implemented later this year. I can’t wait to see the impact PALS will have on the field in 5, 10, 15 years.

I’m not remotely capturing everything Peter has done for me during my nine years on the faculty. He’s advised me at every step of the way—on potential government and public service opportunities, on lateral opportunities, on faculty matters, and on so much more. And through his example he taught me how to better mentor and build institutions.

I’ll conclude where I began: When I got the offer from Ohio State, my law school mentor Deborah Rhode (who sadly passed away last year) told me (paraphrasing): You have to go to Ohio State. Peter Shane is there, and you’ll find no better mentor in your field. There are so many great schools and faculties, she continued, but having a mentor like Peter—who can help you develop your scholarship and become a voice in your field—is invaluable.

Deborah couldn’t have provided better advice to me at that stage in my career.

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