Paul M. Bator

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Paul Michael Bator
Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States
In office
October 1982 – December 1983
PresidentRonald Reagan
Succeeded byCharles Fried
Personal details
Born(1929-06-02)June 2, 1929
Budapest, Hungary
DiedFebruary 24, 1989(1989-02-24) (aged 59)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationPrinceton University (BA)
Harvard University (MA, JD)

Paul Michael Bator (June 2, 1929 – February 24, 1989) was an American legal academic, Supreme Court advocate and expert on United States federal courts. In addition to teaching for almost 30 years at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago Law School, Bator served as Deputy Solicitor General of the United States during the Reagan Administration.

Early life and education[edit]

Bator was born in 1929 in Budapest, Hungary, and moved with his parents to the United States in 1939. He attended Groton School and received his A.B. summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1951, where he was valedictorian. He earned a master's degree in history from Harvard University in 1953 and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. From 1956 to 1957 he served as law clerk to Justice John M. Harlan II of the United States Supreme Court.[1]


Professor of law, Harvard Law School[edit]

Following a brief period of private practice at Manhattan firm Debevoise, Plimpton & McLean, Bator began teaching at Harvard Law School in 1959. He became a full professor of law in 1962 and from 1971 to 1975 served as associate dean of the law school. While at Harvard, he published many articles, including his famous piece, "Finality in Criminal Law and Federal Habeas Corpus for State Prisoners," 76 Harv. L. Rev. 441 (1963), which described "how with reason we can arrive at just the reasonable balance between fairness and the need to attain finality in the criminal process."[2] He also co-authored the second (1973) and third (1988) editions of Hart & Wechsler's "The Federal Courts and the Federal System," a leading text on federal jurisdiction.[1]

Deputy Solicitor General[edit]

In 1982 Bator took a leave of absence from Harvard to become Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. He argued and won eight cases on behalf of the government at the Supreme Court, including Hishon v. King & Spalding, which held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to partnership selection at law firms;[3] Grove City College v. Bell, which applied provisions of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act narrowly;[4] Clark v. Community for Creative Nonviolence, which denied that protesters' First Amendment rights were violated by a law prohibiting overnight sleeping in Washington, D.C. memorial parks;[5] and Reagan v. Wald, which upheld the validity of currency restrictions imposed on travelers to Cuba.[6]

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bator to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but he withdrew his name due to illness.

John P. Wilson Professor of Law, University of Chicago[edit]

Bator returned to Harvard after his term as Deputy Solicitor General but in January 1986 he left to join the University of Chicago Law School as the John P. Wilson professor of law. He simultaneously served as associate counsel with the firm Mayer, Brown & Platt, where he practiced appellate law. In his last Supreme Court appearance on October 4, 1988, he successfully represented the United States Sentencing Commission in a case challenging the latter's constitutional validity.

In 1987, Bator testified in support of Judge Robert Bork, whose nomination to the United States Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate. The same year, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[7]


Bator was a member of the American Law Institute.

End of life and legacy[edit]

Bator died in 1989 and was survived by his wife, Alice Garrett Hoag Bator; sons, Thomas and Michael; and daughter, Julia.

Harvard Law Review tribute[edit]

In June 1989, Harvard Law Review published tributes to Bator by Professor David L. Shapiro, Professor Charles Fried and then-judge Stephen Breyer.[2] Fried characterized Bator's teaching as "Mozartian," displaying "a brilliance, a clarity of intelligence, deployed with lightning speed and a distinctive style that was at once inventive and entirely apt" and described his briefs and arguments before the Supreme Court as "sonatas of reason."[2]

Paul M. Bator Award[edit]

Following Bator's death, the Federalist Society established the Paul M. Bator Award for young law professors. Each year, the prize was awarded to an academic who has demonstrated excellence in legal scholarship, a commitment to teaching, a concern for students, and made a significant public impact.[8]

Past Bator Award recipients[edit]

Year Professor
1990 Stephen L. Carter
1991 Randy Barnett
1992 Geoffrey Miller
1993 Akhil Amar
1994 Robert P. George
1995 Jonathan Macey
1996 Michael Paulsen
1997 John McGinnis
1998 Paul Cassell
1999 Eugene Volokh
2000 John F. Manning
2001 John Yoo
2002 Roderick Hills Jr.
2003 Adrian Vermeule
2004 Jonathan H. Adler
2005 Ernest A. Young
2006 Caleb Nelson
2007 Orin Kerr
2008 Saikrishna Prakash
2009 Nicole Stelle Garnett
2010 M. Todd Henderson
2011 Brian T. Fitzpatrick
2012 Eugene Kontorovich
2013 Nita Farahany
2014 Joshua D. Wright
2015 Joshua Kleinfeld
2016 Tara Leigh Grove
2017 William Baude


  1. ^ a b Narvaez, Alfonso A. (February 25, 1989). "Paul Michael Bator Is Dead at 59; Lawyer-Teacher Also Served U.S." The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c Shapiro, David L. "In Memoriam: Paul M. Bator." In Harvard Law Review, v. 102, no. 8, June 1989.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2010-04-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)