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Michael A. Fitts

Law professor, Emeritus; Dean Emeritus

Michael Fitts

Michael Fitts’ vision for and support of interdisciplinary research and teaching is shaping the future of legal education. Under his leadership, Penn Law has become a national leader in cross-disciplinary legal education, with 30 degree and certificate programs offered in partnership with Wharton, the Medical School, and other schools on Penn’s campus. He has expanded the size and academic breadth of the standing faculty, recruiting more than 25 renowned scholars and promising young intellectuals. In addition, Penn Law has expanded its global connections and impacts through a range of international partnerships and programs.

Fitts served as a clerk to Third Circuit Judge Leon Higginbotham and as an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel. He has written on questions of administrative law, presidential power and separation of powers, and has argued for improving the structure of political parties and executive-branch decision making. Fitts is a member of the Law and Political Process Study Group of the American Political Science Association. His 14-year tenure as Dean of Penn Law ended in June, when he stepped down to become President of Tulane University in New Orleans.

Articles and Book Chapters

In Memoriam: Bernard Wolfman, 125 HARV. L. REV. 1893 (2012) (Part of Memoriam to Bernard Wolfman).

What Will Our Future Look Like and How Will We Respond?, 96 IOWA L. REV. 1539 (2011).

A Dean’s Perspective on Ed Baker, 12 U. PA. J. CONST. L. 943 (2010).

A Time-Honored Model for the Profession and the Academy, 158 U. PA. L. REV. 1289 (2010) (Part of Symposium on Work of Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr.).

The Non-Management Side of Academic Administration, 41 U. TOL. L. REV. 283 (2010).

Foreword: The Evolution of International Law, 30 U. PA. J. INT. L. at i-vi (2009) (Foreword to 30th Anniversary Issue Contributions).

Targeted Transparency, 7 ELECTION L.J. 137 (2008) (reviewing Archon Fung et al's FULL DISCLOSURE: THE PERILS AND PROMISE OF TRANSPARENCY (2007)).

Back to the Future: The Supreme Courts Response to the Changing Goals and Functions of Modern Political Parties, in THE SUPREME COURT AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS (David Hope ed., 2002).

The Complicated Ingredients of Wisdom and Leadership, 16 HARV. BLACKLETTER L.J. 17 (2000).

The Hazards of Legal Fine Tuning: Confronting the Free Will Problem in Election Law Scholarship, 32 LOY. L. REV. 1121 (1999).

The Legalization of the Modern Presidency: Twenty-Five Years After Watergate, 43 ST. LOUIS U. L.J. 725 (1999).

The Triumph of Timing: 'Raines v. Byrd' and the Modern Supreme Court's Attempts to Control Constitutional Confrontations, 86 GEO. L.J. 351 (1998) (with Devins).

The Paradox of Power in the Modern State: Why a Unitary Centralized Presidency May Not Exhibit Effective or Legitimate Leadership, 144 U. PA. L. REV. 827 (1996).

Book Review, 13 J. POL. ANAL. & MGMT. 811 (1994) (reviewing G. COX & M. MCCUBBINS, LEGISLATIVE LEVIATHAN (1994)).

Ways of Thinking about the Unitary Executive, 15 CARDOZO L. REV. 323 (1993).

Book Review, 12 J. POL. ANAL. & MGMT. 223 (1993) (reviewing B. ACKERMAN, WE THE PEOPLE (1993)).

Book Review, 10 CONST. COM. 194 (1992) (reviewing J. FISHKIN, DEMOCRACY AND DELIBERATION (1993)).


Controlling Congress: Presidential Influence in Domestic Fiscal Policy, 80 GEO. L.J. 1737 (1992) (with Inman).

More publications can be found here.

Working Papers

Rethinking Separation of Powers from the Ground Up: The Political Dynamic of Separated Powers (U. Pa. Institute for Law and Economics) (Portions Presented at the Convention of the American Political Science Association) (148 pages).

The Budgetary Effects of the Voting Rights Act: Did VRA Make a Difference? (with Inman) (U. Pa. Institute for Law and Economics) (Portions Presented at the Convention of the American Political Science Association) (42 pages).

Research Areas

  • Presidential Powers
  • Separation of Powers
  • Law and the Political Process


Law Clerk to the Hon. A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., U.S. Circuit Judge, U.S. Court Of Appeals, Third Circuit (1979-81)

Penn Law - Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law (2000- ); Robert G. Fuller, Jr. Professor of Law (1996-2000); Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (1996-98); Professor (1992-96); Associate Professor (1990-92); Assistant Professor (1985-90)

Visiting Professor - Swarthmore College (Political Science)

Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. - Attorney Advisor (1981-85) The Office of Legal Counsel serves as outside counsel to the President, White House, and Cabinet


  • Administrative Law
  • Election Law
  • Legislative Process
  • Regulated Industries

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