David Barron

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On September 24, 2013, President Obama nominated David J. Barron to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. When confirmed, he will serve in the seat vacated by Michael Boudin, who took senior status on June 1, 2013. David Barron is currently the S. William Green Professor of Public Law at Harvard Law School. Upon his nomination, President Obama observed that “[Barron] has displayed exceptional dedication to the legal profession through his work” and “will be a diligent, judicious and esteemed addition to the First Circuit bench.”1

Biography

Professor Barron was born in Washington, D.C. in 1967.2 In 1989, he graduated with a B.A. from Harvard College, where he served as president of the school newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. After college, Prof. Barron worked as a reporter for the News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1991, the North Carolina Press Association recognized his outstanding writing with the Walter Spearman Award for young journalists. Prof. Barron earned his J.D. in 1994, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an Articles Editor on the Harvard Law Review.

After law school, Prof. Barron clerked for Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court.  From 1996 to 1999, Prof. Barron worked at the Department of Justice in the Office of Legal Counsel.

In 1999, Prof. Barron entered academia as an assistant professor at Harvard law School. He took a break from teaching in 2009, and returned to DOJ as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. His work at OLC earned him the National Intelligence Exceptional Achievement Medal from the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. In 2010, Prof. Barron returned to Harvard Law School, and he was named the S. William Green Professor of Public Law in 2011.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Prof. Barron to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in 2012 and to the Massachusetts State College Building Authority in 2013.

Legal Experience and Expertise

Professor Barron has substantively broad experience in both public service and academia. He is a widely published author in law reviews and the popular media, and he is a frequent commentator for major outlets like the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and NPR.  He has also appeared as counsel and amicus curiae before the U.S. Supreme Court, and, while overseeing the Office of Legal Counsel, provided litigation advice on constitutional and statutory matters at all levels of the federal court system.

Prof. Barron’s teaching and scholarship has focused on war powers, administrative law, federalism, eminent domain, and local government law. In the popular media, he has also provided his views on immigration, voting rights, nominations, and the intersection of privacy rights and national security law.

As a law professor, Prof. Barron has appeared as amicus curiae in two appellate matters. In 2005, he helped draft and joined a brief in support of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) in its fight against the Solomon Amendment.3 The Department of Defense argued that the Solomon Amendment required universities to let the military recruit on campus, even when the military’s refusal to let gays serve openly violated a school’s anti-discrimination policy. Prof. Barron’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, which many of his faculty colleagues joined, argued that the Solomon Amendment did not exempt the military from generally applicable anti-discrimination rules. Also in 2005, he joined other scholars in the field of local government to defend the City of Santa Fe’s living wage ordinance in the New Mexico Court of Appeals.4 The court adopted the argument advanced in Prof. Barron’s brief, upholding the ordinance as a valid exercise of Santa Fe’s local home rule authority.

Prof. Barron has also appeared as counsel in several campaign finance cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Randall v. Sorrell,5 for example, he represented members of Congress as amici curiae, and argued that Vermont’s campaign contribution limits were permissible under the First Amendment.

Professional and Community Activities

Throughout his career, Prof. Barron has shown a commitment to community service and the Harvard community. He was a member of the Botanic Garden Children’s Center, where he served on the By-Laws Review Committee.  He has also served as a faculty member for numerous student groups, including the Harvard Urban Law Association, the Harvard University Center for the Environment, and the South Asia Institute.


  1. White House Press Release, President Obama Nominates David Jeremiah Barron to Serve on the United States Court of Appeals, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/24/president-obama-nominates-david-jeremiah-barron-serve-united-states-cour. 

  2. Senate Judiciary Committee Questionnaire, available at http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/nominations/113thCongressJudicialNominations/upload/Barron-Senate-Questionnaire-Final.pdf. 

  3. See Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47 (2006). 

  4. See New Mexicans for Free Enterprise v. City of Santa Fe, 126 P.3d 1149 (2005). 

  5. 548 U.S. 230 (2006).