Michael Fitts

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Michael Fitts

Michael Fitts, a legal scholar, is the 15th president of Tulane University[1] in New Orleans, Louisiana and the Judge Rene H. Himel Professor of Law at the Tulane School of Law,[2] he is also the author of numerous articles that have appeared in the Harvard Law Journal[3] and other prestigious scholarly publications.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Michael Fitts grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[2] his father, Doctor William T. Fitts, Jr., was a John Rhea Barton Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Penn Medicine[4] from 1972 through 1975.[5] Dr. Fitts served in World War II as a surgical ward officer in the Affiliated Unit of the University of Pennsylvania, the 20th General Hospital, stationed in the China-Burma-India Theatre.[5] Fitts' maternal grandfather, Joseph H. Willits, Ph.D., LL.D., was a professor and dean of the Wharton School.[6]

Michael Fitts and his wife, Renée J. Sobel, Esq., have two daughters.[2]

Academic career[edit]

Fitts earned a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University in 1975.[2] Inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird and its heroic protagonist Atticus Finch, he attended Yale Law School. Fitts was editor of the Yale Law Journal and received his juris doctorate in 1979.[2]

Fitts served as a clerk for federal judge and civil rights advocate Leon Higginbotham, who became a mentor to him,[2] he then worked as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he served as outside counsel to the President, White House and Cabinet.[2]

His teaching career began at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1985.[7] Fitts served 14 years as dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was recognized for greatly increasing the school’s offerings in interdisciplinary education.[7] He also presided over a quadrupling of Penn Law’s endowment, a more than 40 percent increase in the size of the Law School faculty and a doubling of all forms of student financial aid.[7] Fitts also oversaw the rebuilding or renovation of the entire Law School campus;[7] in recognition of his accomplishments, the Penn Law School's Board of Overseers named a faculty chair, a scholarship and an auditorium at the school in his honor.[7]

Fitts has written extensively on presidential power, separation of powers, executive branch decision-making, improving the structure of political parties and administrative law, he served as president of the American Law Deans Association.[7]

Tulane Presidency[edit]

Arriving at Tulane in July 2014, Fitts brought with him a strong emphasis on heightening cross-disciplinary education and research,[2] he believes students and universities can set themselves apart in a fast-changing world and ever-shifting economy through teaching and research that address societal problems from an array of different fields and areas of knowledge.[2] In his first year at Tulane, Michael Fitts launched task forces to lead the university in deepening its unique strengths for interdisciplinary collaboration,[2] he has capitalized on Tulane University’s manageable size, its wide selection of professional schools, the unified undergraduate college and multiple cross-disciplinary efforts already in place.[2] He aims to create the most engaged undergraduate experience in the country through this rethinking of academic options, residential living, extracurricular activities and more; in graduate education and research, his goal is to foster intellectual cross-pollination that can produce solutions to some of the world’s most fundamental problems.[2]

Fitts has initiated a campus master planning process with a 21st century vision of spaces redesigned to promote connections,[2] that includes drawing people together from different parts of campus and linking different functions of the university, such as residence halls with dining hubs and academic venues.[2]

Another avenue for making connections is public service, an area where Tulane University is a leader in higher education.[2] Fitts lauds the pursuit of community service for its power to show students how theory connects with practice and gives them real-world experience in the concepts they study in class,[2] his vision for the university includes enhancing the ties between public service and academics.[2]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Beacon Award for Public Service (2014)[2]
  • Urban Leadership Award, Urban Institute (2014)[2]
  • Michael A. Fitts Distinguished Professor of Law (2013)[2]
  • Named one of the “Nine Most Transformative U.S. Law Deans” over the past decade, Brian Leiter’s Law School Report (2011)[2]
  • Friends Select School Distinguished Alumni/ae Award (2007)[2]

Board and leadership positions[edit]

  • President, American Law Deans Association/Society (Member, Board of Directors 2003-2013; Vice-President 2009-11; President 2011-2013)
  • Organizer & Convener, Sino-U.S. Law Deans Summit, Beijing, PRC (June 2011) (at the request of then US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman)
  • Chair, The Holmes Debates and Conference, Library of Congress (2004)
  • Co-Chair, American Bar Association Bi-Annual Development Conference (2005-2007; Member Organizing Committee, 2005-2010)
  • Member, American Bar Association Review Committees-Reaccreditation Site Visiting Committees for University of Chicago (April 2012); Stanford Law School (2008); Boston College Law School (2006)-Security of Position Drafting Committee (2008)
  • Member, American Political Science Association and APSA Study Group on Law and the Political Process (1992-2010)
  • Member, American Law Institute (2000-2014 as Dean; 2009-present as public member)
  • Member of Organizing Committee and Faculty, New Deans Conference, ABA (2004-2008)
  • Member, Academic Advisory Board, Waseda Law School, Tokyo Japan (2004-2010)
  • Member, Board of Directors, World Affairs Council (2005-2009)
  • Member, Academic Advisory Board, The Reinvestment Fund (2005-2014)
  • Member, Law Deans Advisory Board on China (2006-2010)
  • Member, Board of Advisors for the Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies at The City College of New York (2008-2010)
  • Member, Board of Directors, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (2011-2014)
  • Member, Committee of Seventy, Watchdog Citizens Group (1999-2008)


  • In Memoriam: Bernard Wolfman, 125 Harv. L. Rev. (June 2012)
  • What Will Our Future Look Like and How Will We Respond?, 96 Iowa L. Rev. 1539 (2011) (Part of a Symposium on Rethinking Legal Education)
  • A Time-Honored Model for the Profession and the Academy, 158 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1289 (2010) (Tribute to Prof. Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr.)
  • A Dean's Perspective on Ed Baker, 12 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 943 (2010) (Tribute to C. Edwin Baker)
  • The Non-Management Side of Academic Administration, 41 U. Tol. L. Rev. 283 (2010) (Part of Symposium on Leadership in Legal Education)
  • Forward: The Evolution of International Law, 30 U. Pa. J. Int. L. xix (2009) (Part of 20th Anniversary Issue of the Penn Journal of International Law)
  • Targeted Transparency, 7 Election Law Journal 137 (2008) (reviewing Archon Fung et al. FULL DISCLOSURE: THE PERILS AND PROMISE OF TRANSPARENCY (2007))
  • Back to the Future: The Supreme Court’s 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. Bl.L.L.Rev. 17 (2000) (Part of Symposium on Work of A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.)
  • The Hazards of Legal Fine Tuning: Confronting the Free Will Problem in Election Law Scholarship, 32 Loyola Law Review 1121 (1999) (Part of Symposium on Election Law as its own Field of Study)
  • The Legalization of the Modern Presidency: Twenty Five Years After Watergate, 43 St. Louis U. L.J. 725 (1999) (Part of Symposium on Watergate 25 years later)
  • Devins and Fitts, The Triumph of Timing: Raines v. Byrd and the Modern Supreme Court's Attempt to Control Constitutional Confrontations 86 Geo.L.J. 351 (1998)
  • The Foibles of Formalism: A Political "Transaction Cost" Analysis of Separation of Powers, 47 Case West L. Rev. 1643 (1998) (Part of Law and Political Science Symposium on Presidency)
  • 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)
  • Review of Cox and McCubbins, LEGISLATIVE LEVIATHAN, 13 J. of Pol.Anal. and Mgmt. 811 (1994)
  • Review of Bruce Ackerman, WE THE PEOPLE, 12 Journal of Pol.Anal. and Mgmt. 223 (1993)
  • Ways of Thinking About the Unitary Executive, 15 Cardozo L.Rev. 323 (1993) (Part of Symposium on the Unitary Executive)
  • Review of Cass Sunstein, AFTER THE RIGHTS REVOLUTION – RECONCEIVING THE REGULATORY STATE, 11 Journal of Pol.Anal.and Mgmt. 332 (1992)
  • Fitts and Inman, Controlling Congress: Presidential Influence in Domestic Fiscal Policy, 80 Geo.L.J. 1737 (1992) (Part of Symposium on Law and Political Theory)
  • Review of James Fishkin, DEMOCRACY AND DELIBERATION, 10 Constit. Com. 194 (1992)
  • Can Ignorance Be Bliss? Imperfect Information as a Positive Influence in Political Institutions, 88 Mich.L.Rev.917 (1990)
  • Inman and Fitts, Political Institutions and Fiscal Policy: Evidence from the U.S. Historical Record, 6 J.L. Econ. & Org. 79 (1990) (Part of Yale Law School Symposium on Political Institutions)
  • Retaining the Rule of Law in a Chevron World, 66 Chi.Kent L.Rev.355 (1990) (Part of Symposium on Statutory Construction)
  • Look Before You Leap: Some Cautionary Notes on Civic Republicanism, 97 Yale L.J. 1651 (1988) (Part of Symposium on the Republican Civic Tradition)
  • The Vices of Virtue: A Political Party Perspective on Civic Virtue Reforms of the Legislative Process, 136 U. Pa. L.Rev. 1567 (1988)


  1. ^ "Tulane University". tulane.edu. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Biography of Michael A. Fitts, Tulane University, retrieved 2016-10-11.
  3. ^ School, Harvard Law. "Journals and Publications - Harvard Law School". 
  4. ^ "Department of Surgery – Penn Medicine". www.pennmedicine.org. 
  5. ^ a b William T., Fitts. "William T. Fitts Surgical Education Center - Penn Surgery". www.uphs.upenn.edu. Penn Medicine. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Michael A. Fitts Named Dean of The University of Pennsylvania Law School". Penn News. Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Michael, Fitts. "Penn Law Faculty: Michael A. Fitts, expert on Administrative Law, Legislative Process, Election Law, Separation of Powers". www.law.upenn.edu. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Scott Cowen
President of Tulane University
Succeeded by