2010 has been a very good year for Jason Mazzone. A professor and noted scholar of constitutional law, intellectual property, and legal history, Mazzone has been on the receiving end of a number of coveted honors from the Federalist Society, the American Law Institute, the Copyright Society, and Brooklyn Law School.
His string of accolades began in January when his article, “When the Supreme Court is Not Supreme,” Northwestern University Law Review (Vol. 44, forthcoming 2010) was competitively selected for presentation at the Federalist Society's Young Legal Scholars Panel at the Society’s 12th annual faculty conference held in New Orleans. He was also elected to The American Law Institute, a governing body of 4200 lawyers, judges, and law professors selected on the basis of professional achievement and demonstrated interest in improving the law.
His article, “Freedom’s Associations,” 77 Wash. L. Rev. 639 (2002), was cited by Justice Antonin Scalia in his concurring opinion in Doe v. Reed (June 24, 2010), which held that signatories of referendum petitions generally do not have a constitutional right to keep their identities private.
Also in June, Mazzone was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Copyright Society, the country’s preeminent organization for lawyers and other professionals working in the field of copyright and intellectual property law. He was also elected to the Executive Committee. In his new role, Mazzone hopes that he can help to bridge the gap between practitioners and academics. “There is a real divide between lawyers who practice intellectual property law and the law professors who teach it,” he said. “Professors are more skeptical of the scope of copyright law, whereas lawyers are in favor of the current regime because they’re concerned about issues of infringement. There is no middle ground, and it’s frustrating to see. I hope to be able to find areas of consensus.” Mazzone also wants to encourage students to become more involved in the Society. “Traditionally student membership has been low, and it’s a shame because of the mentoring and networking opportunities available.”
Mazzone also received a high honor from the Law School in June when he was named the Gerald Baylin Professor of Law. Dean Joan G. Wexler announced this new chair at the precommencement dinner, recognizing Mazzone’s significant achievements and noting how well deserved an honor it was. The professorship was made possible by the generous gift of the late Gerald Baylin ’53. “This is the highest honor the School can confer on a faculty member, so I am absolutely thrilled to receive it,” said Mazzone. “The title was given to me in recognition of my past achievements, but more importantly, it was given to me with high expectations for what I will accomplish in the future. I will be working hard to meet the high standards that this position requires.”
To that end, Mazzone is spending his upcoming fall sabbatical working on a new book project that he explained builds on his dissertation, which examined the issue of how societies create or encourage social and cultural conditions to support written constitutions. “Once you have a constitution, how do you get people to buy into it and understand that they are part of a new system of governance?” Mazzone said. His dissertation, which was completed as part of his J.S.D. from Yale in 2004, focused on the early American experience of 1789, but his current research will explore comparative experiences of different countries and burgeoning democracies. He will be conducting his research as a visiting fellow at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. “I am focusing on how closely the social conditions at the time match the document,” he said, “and when they have succeeded and when they have failed.”
Mazzone, who was born and raised in Tasmania, Australia, received yet another honor this spring. In June, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States at a ceremony held in the Southern District of New York, where he had previously clerked for Judge John G. Koeltl. “It was a very moving ceremony,” said Mazzone. “Dean Wexler attended and had notified the presiding judge, William H. Pauley, that we were coming.” Judge Pauley arranged for Mazzone and Dean Wexler to have front row seats for the proceedings and also singled Mazzone out during his speech to the gallery of new citizens. “Judge Pauley mentioned that I had clerked in the courthouse, and spoke of how I teach constitutional law. He said I was an example of how anything is possible.” Mazzone was further honored when Judge Koeltl took a break from proceedings to personally present him with his naturalization certificate. “It was very touching. Personally, this was a very significant moment,” he said. “My father worked in construction and my mother did part-time office work in Australia. I am the first person in my family, and in my parents’ families to complete more than a 10th-grade education.”
“I always tell my students that whatever they end up doing in life, they should read the Constitution from time to time,” he said. “I myself follow this practice. Each year, on July 4, I sit down and read the Constitution from beginning to end. I invariably find something I had not noticed before. Reading the Constitution this coming July will be particularly special for me.”
Learn more about Professor Mazzone.