Each fall, two prizes are awarded by the Frances Lewis Law Center to recognize outstanding legal scholarship supported by our summer grants. This year’s winners of the Lewis Prize for Excellence in Legal Scholarship are Josh Fairfield and Jill Fraley.
Professor Fairfield’s award recognizes his outstanding scholarship on the intersection of law and technology. In his book, “Owned: Property, Privacy, and the New Digital Serfdom,” Professor Fairfield critically evaluates the status of property rights in the digital era, revealing how we no longer truly own the various devices that power our modern lifestyle, including smartphones, TVs, and even software-enabled cars and homes. As a result, he argues that we risk becoming “digital peasants” subservient to the interests of private companies and overreaching governments. Law and technology scholars praise the book as advancing “a powerful theoretical vision and a set of practical reforms that could help us restore control of our digital futures” and as “an essential guide to how not get owned by the things you think you own.” Professor Fairfield’s work on these issues continues in his new book underway called “DELTA: The Law of Technological Change,” which analyzes how legal systems adapt, respond to, and even guide technological change.
Professor Fraley’s award recognizes her excellent scholarship in the areas of property law, including land use, environmental harms, law and geography, water rights, and theories of property and property rights. Professor Fraley’s careful and thoughtful scholarship frequently draws on her training as a legal historian to shed new light on the evolution and current status of various doctrines in property law. Notably, she was selected by a panel of distinguished legal scholars as the 2016 winner of the prestigious (and highly competitive) AALS Scholarly Papers Competition for her paper, “A New History of Waste Law: How a Misunderstood Doctrine Shaped Ideas About the Transformation of Law,” which was published earlier this year by the Marquette Law Review. Professor Fraley continues her outstanding work with a new paper entitled “Liability for Unintentional Nuisances, or How the Restatement of Torts Almost Negligently Killed the Right to Exclude in Property Law.” This article critically analyzes the treatment of nuisance law in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, which is widely taught in law school classes and textbooks almost forty years after its release. After conducting detailed research into the Restatement and decades of case law on the nuisance doctrine, Professor Fraley concludes that “the Restatement (Second) got it wrong” by “muddling the law of negligence with the law of nuisance,” which ultimately “diminished our rights to private property.”