Tommaso Pavon Receives the 2020 Edward S. Corwin Award

The Edward S. Corwin Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best doctoral dissertation in the field of public law.

Tommaso Pavone is Postdoctoral Fellow in political science at the PluriCourts Centre at the University of Oslo, having received his Ph.D. in 2019 from the Department of Politics at Princeton University.  At the intersection of judicial politics, law and society, and comparative politics, Tommaso’s research traces how the oftentimes concealed interactions between lawyers and judges shape policymaking and political development.  With a regional focus on the European Union, his book project – The Ghostwriters: Lawyers and the Politics Behind the Judicial Construction of Europe – reconstructs how a little-known group of entrepreneurial lawyers advanced European integration by encouraging clients to challenge state laws and mobilizing national courts against their own governments.  Judge-centric narratives, Tommaso contends, can mask a crucial arena of political struggle, neglecting the repertoires via which lawyers fight judicial obduracy and cultivate a new, transnational legal consciousness in courts and civil society.  Tommaso’s research integrates a variety of methods, including immersive fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, archival documents, and quantitative and geospatial data.  His work has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals including World Politics, Law & Society Review, Journal of Law & Courts, Journal of European Public Policy, and European Law Journal.

Citation from the Award Committee:

In “The Ghostwriters: Lawyers and the Politics Behind the Judicial Construction of Europe,” Tommaso Pavone of Princeton University convincingly argues that the main theories of European legal integration got it wrong at the micro level: the engines of integration were not ambitious national judges, eager to challenge their own governments and judicial superiors by invoking European law and referring questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union.  Instead, Pavone shows, national judges more often try to avoid the European route, due to excessive workload, insufficient understanding of European law and constraints stemming from their role in the national judiciary.  Indeed, the drivers of integration through law were often the “Euro-lawyers”; a relatively small group of activist lawyers, who sought out suitable clients willing to break national laws and who cajoled reluctant local judges into activating the E.U. court.  Pavone also commendably nuances his own story, demonstrating the shifting roles of lawyers over time and the uneven geographic integration of E.U. law, depending on local economic circumstances.

This is a remarkable dissertation, both in terms of theory development, research design, scope, and style.  Besides rewriting the history of European legal integration, “The Ghostwriters” also makes important contributions to theories of legal mobilization and political lawyering beyond the European Union.  Pavone builds his narrative on a set of carefully selected case studies and on a wide variety of data and methods, including archival studies, geospatial analysis and more than 350 interviews in Italy, France, and Germany.  His way of communicating qualitative field work is unprecedented.  Stories are told by long excerpts of conversations, by pictures and by descriptions of court rooms and crowded office spaces that carry a literary quality.  The narrative is so persuasive because the judges and lawyers can speak directly to the reader.  It is a dissertation of the highest quality.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Daniel Naurin (chair), Oslo University; Dr. Pamela C. Corley, Southern Methodist University; and Dr. Michael J. Nelson, Pennsylvania State University.

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