The Penny Pether Award for Law and Language Scholarship

First Annual Award

The first annual Penny Pether Award for Law and Language Scholarship was presented to Professor Michael Burger of Roger Williams University School of Law for his article Environmental Law/Environmental Literature, 40 Ecology L.Q. 1 (2013).  The award was presented Nov. 15, 2013, at the West Coast Rhetoric Scholarship Workshop at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law.

The Awards Committee recognized two of the dozens of nominated articles with honorable mention: Kevin Curran for his article, Hospitable Justice: Law and Selfhood in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 9 Law, Culture, & Humanities 295 (2013), and Ruthann Robson for her essay, 27 Words, 13 Memoir 85 (2013).

Penny Pether

Penny PetherA passionate advocate for interdisciplinary scholarship in law, literature, and language, Penelope J. Pether was Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law and former Professor of Law and Director of Legal Rhetoric at the American University Washington College of Law. Her own scholarship focused not only on law, literature, and language, but also on constitutional and comparative constitutional law, legal theory (including constitutional theory), common law legal institutions, judging practices, and professional subject formation.

Professor Pether was a respected educator, dedicated mentor and beloved friend and colleague. During her tenure at Villanova, she taught a wide variety of constitutional law, law and literature, criminal law and criminal procedure courses. Professor Pether distinguished herself by the positive impact she had on so many students over the years at VLS and the contributions she made to the field through her scholarship. She will also be remembered for her work with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which brings law students and incarcerated men and women together to explore and learn about issues of crime and justice from behind prison walls.

Professor Pether earned her undergraduate degree and LLB from the University of Sydney in Australia, where she won the Total Australia Prize and Walter Reid Memorial Grants in successive years. She later earned her Masters in Letters from the University of New England and her PhD in English Literature, also from the University of Sydney. Following law school, she served as an Investigation Officer and Executive Assistant (Police) in the Office of the Ombudsman, New South Wales, and was a solicitor in the Sydney office of the national law firm of Freehill, Hollingdale & Page. Professor Pether taught as a Lecturer-in-Law at the University of Sydney and the University of Wollongong, and was an Assistant Professor and Director of Lawyering Skills at Southern Illinois University School of Law. 

Award Criteria

Beginning in November 2013, the Penny Pether Award for Law & Language Scholarship will be given annually to an article or essay published during the preceding year (September 1 to September 1) that exemplifies Penny’s commitment to law and language scholarship and pedagogy.

The Committee selecting award recipients from among the articles and essays nominated will look for scholarship that not only embodies Penny’s passion and spirit but also has some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. “[S]cholarship concerning itself with the unique or distinctive insights that might emerge from interdisciplinary inquiries into ‘law’ grounded in the work of influential theorists of language and discourse.”
  2. Scholarship that “attempts to think through the relations among subject formation, language, and law.”
  3. Scholarship that provides “accounts of—and linguistic interventions in—acute and yet abiding crises in law, its institutions and discourses.”
  4. Scholarship and pedagogy that is “[c]arefully theorized and situated, insisting on engaging politics and law, [and that] charts ways for law and its subjects to use power, do justice.”

More explanations and descriptions of these characteristics can be found in Penny’s chapter from which these quotations are drawn: Language, in Law and the Humanities: An Introduction (Austin Sarat et al. eds., Cambridge U. Press 2010).

Selection Committee

David S. Caudill
Professor of Law
Arthur M. Goldberg Family Chair
Villanova University School of Law

J. Amy Dillard
Assistant Professor of Law
Univ. of Baltimore School of Law

Ian Gallacher
Professor of Law & Director of Legal Communication and Research
Syracuse University College of Law

Melissa J. Marlow
Clinical Professor of Law
Southern Illinois Univ. School of Law
Jeremy Mullem
Senior Lecturing Fellow
Duke Law

Nancy M. Modesitt
Assistant Professor of Law
Univ. of Baltimore School of Law

Terrill Pollman
Professor of Law
UNLV Boyd School of Law

Linda Berger
Professor of Law
UNLV Boyd School of Law