Law Professor Nicole Garnett Receives Social Justice Award

Nicole Garnett

Nicole Stelle Garnett, John P. Murphy Foundation professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, was recently awarded the Reinhold Niebuhr Award by the University of Notre Dame.

“I’m deeply honored to receive the Reinhold Niebuhr award, especially because it recognizes the connection, which I aspire to achieve, between my scholarship and my commitment to making the world a better place, especially for the disadvantaged,” said Garnett.

The award is given annually to a faculty member or administrator whose body of academic work and life promote or exemplify an area of social justice in modern life. It is named for Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, ethicist, public commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary.

Garnett’s teaching and research focus on property, land use, urban development, local government law, and education policy. She is the author of numerous articles on these subjects including Ordering the City: Land Use, Policing and the Restoration of Urban America (Yale U.P., 2009) and, most recently, Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools’ Importance in Urban America (University of Chicago Press, 2014), which she co-authored with Prof. Margaret F. Brinig. Throughout her professional career, Garnett has also devoted herself to increasing educational opportunities for disadvantaged children and, through her work at the Alliance for Catholic Education, to strengthening and transforming K-12 Catholic schools.

“Nicole has done a tremendous job of making her research have an impact on the wider world,” Brinig said. “She’s been able to use her research and the research we’ve done together in so many different kinds of ways and in meetings with a cross section of people around the country.”

In addition to her work in the Law School, Garnett is fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives and the senior policy coordinator for the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education. The group’s mission is to sustain and strengthen under-resourced Catholic schools through leadership formation, research, and professional service to ensure that all children — especially those from low-income families — have the opportunity to experience the gift of an excellent Catholic education.

“Nicole’s commitment to expanding quality education choices for parents and students is evident,” said Dean Nell Jessup Newton. “We are proud of her scholarship and commitment to social justice and gratified that she is receiving this well-deserved recognition.”

Garnett received her bachelor’s degree in political science with honors and distinction from Stanford in 1992. She earned her J.D. at Yale Law School in 1995. Following graduation from law school, Garnett served as a law clerk for the Honorable Morris S. Arnold of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court. Before joining the law school in 1999, she worked for two years as a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, a non-profit, public-interest law firm in Washington, D.C.