Skip to main content

Aviam Soifer



Aviam Soifer

At a glance...
Law School

Office Location
Law School



Aviam Soifer has taught and written primarily in the areas of constitutional law and legal history. Before beginning his service as dean of Boston College Law School from 1993-1998, he was a professor at Boston University School of Law and at the University of Connecticut Law School. A 1972 graduate of Yale Law School, Soifer also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Yale. He served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and helped create a clinical program in which law students represented mentally ill residents of Connecticut’s largest state hospital. After graduating, Soifer was law clerk to Federal Judge Jon O. Newman.

Soifer's extensive publications include Law and the Company We Keep (Harvard University Press, 1995), which was awarded the triennial Alpha Sigma Nu National Jesuit Book Prize in professional studies in 1998. In 2002, he received Boston College’s university-wide Distinguished Senior Research Award and he recently was named a Distinguished Scholar at the University of Wisconsin’s Legal Studies Institute. His most recent articles and book chapters concern religious freedom, disability rights, and issues of judging and judgment. Currently, he serves on several boards of trustees and advisory committees of public interest organizations that deal with medical care, human rights, and judicial and legal education in the United States and abroad.


B.A., M.A., Urban Studies; J.D., Yale University.


Presentations: "Disability and the Law," at the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, New York, New York, in March. "Disliking Like Cases: Has Formal Equality Become a Solemn Mockery," the Colin Raugh Thomas O’Fallon Memorial Lecture in Law and American Culture, at the Oregon Humanities Center at the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, in April. "The Paternalism/Protection Dilemma: An Alternative Approach," at the Annual Conference of the Association for Law and Mental Health, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in July. Presentation on free exercise of religion at the Fulbright American Studies Institute for Muslim Religious Scholars, at the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College in September. "Descending from the Apex: A Double-Edged Neutrality Trap," at an international interdisciplinary conference entitled "The Place of Theology in the Liberal State and the Globalized World," at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, in October. "Secular Sectarianism and Perilous Neutrality," at the Second Annual Legal Scholarship Symposium entitled "The Scholarship of Sanford V. Levinson," at the University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in November. "Bush v. Gore and Federal Courts," at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, New Orleans, Louisiana, in January. "Judge Jon O. Newman and the Independent Role of the Federal Judge," at New York Law School, New York City, in January. "Civil Liberties, Patriotism, and War: Haven’t We Been Here Before?" at the Liberal Arts Forum at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, in January.

Activities: Participated in the Kennedy Library Forum, "March on Washington," one of a series of roundtable discussions on the civil rights movement in 1963, at the John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, in April. Chair of a session entitled "The Nexus between National and International Law" at "Both Sides of the Bench: New Perspectives in International Law and Human Rights," a program sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, in April. Participated in an affirmative action debate, co-sponsored by the South Asian Law Students Association and the Federalist Society at Boston University School of Law in March. Served on the Applications Committee for the J. Willard Hurst Summer Institute, a legal history institute sponsored by the American Society of Legal History, at BC Law in February. Chair and commentator of a session entitled "The Politics of Law and Race: A Critical Look at the History of Federal Indian Law," at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Legal History (ASLH), San Diego, California, in November. Continues as chair of the ASLH committee planning the J. Willard Hurst Memorial Legal History Institute. Chair and commentator at a panel entitled "Assessing a Sea of Pluralisms," at the annual meeting of the American Society for Legal History, Chicago, Illinois, in November.

Appointments: Appointed dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu, Hawaii, in March. Awarded a U.S. Speaker and Specialist Grant by the U.S. Department of State, to undertake a project on "Marbury v. Madison 200 Years Later" in Barcelona from May 12-14, 2003. Appointed to the Cambridge Health Alliance Board of Trustees. Appointed hearing examiner for the federal September Eleventh Victims Compensation Fund appeals, in October.

Other: Participated in a seminar entitled "Marbury v. Madison 200 Years Later," at the Law School of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, in May, in connection with a US Speaker and Specialist Grant awarded by the US Department of State’s Office of International Programs. Awarded a certificate of appreciation by the BC Law Black Law Students Association for his valuable contributions to the association. Guest speaker at a class on disability law at Boston University School of Law in April 2002.


Fall 2014: No courses taught
Spring 2015: No courses taught


  • "Disabling the ADA: Essences, Better Angels, and Unprincipled Neutrality Claims." William and Mary Law Review 44 (February 2003): 1285-1340.
  • "Rethinking Fairness: Principled Legal Realism and Federal Jurisdiction." New York Law School Law Review 46: no.1-2 (2002/2003) (Judge Jon O. Newman: A Symposium Celebrating his Thirty Years on the Federal Bench and an Occasion to Reflect on the Future of Copyright, Federal Jurisdiction, and International Law): 29-42.
  • "The Jazz Man." Legal Affairs 2: no.2 (March/April 2003): 42-43.
  • "Our Welfare: Doing Good and Being Happy." (The Second Annual Peter M. Cicchino Awards for Outstanding Advocacy in Public Interest). American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy, and Law 10 (2002): 57–65.
  • "Foreword." In American Exceptionalism: The Effects of Plenty on the American Experience, by Arnon Gutfeld, vi-ix. Brighton [Eng.]: Sussex Academic Press, 2002.
  • "Legislators Seek to Undermine State's Separation of Powers." Boston Sunday Herald (October 13, 2002): O30.
  • "Courting Anarchy." Boston University Law Review 82 (June 2002) (Symposium: Federal Courts and Electoral Politics): 699-735.
  • "James Willard Hurst." In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, volume 10, editors in chief Neil J. Smelser, Paul B. Baltes, 7086-7088. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2001.
  • "Descent." Florida State University Law Review 29 (Fall 2001): 269-276.
  • "Defining Disinterest From Both Sides of the Bench." The Boston Globe, Sunday March 4, 2001, Focus Section: E4.
  • "Full and Equal Rights of Conscience." University of Hawai'i Law Review 22 (Summer 2000) (Symposium: Reflecting on Justice Antonin Scalia's Religion Clause Jurisprudence): 469-500.
  • "The Gold Standard and Guilt-Edged Insecurities: The Impeachment Crucible as Tragic Farce." In Aftermath: The Clinton Impeachment and the Presidency in the Age of Political Spectacle, edited by Leonard V. Kaplan and Beverly I. Moran, 113-128. New York: New York University Press, 2001.
  • "The Equitable Distribution of Injustice: Raising Twain." Connecticut Law Review 32 (Summer 2000): 1565-1576.
  • "The Fullness of Time." In Obligations of Citizenship and Demands of Faith: Religious Accommodation in Pluralist Democracies, edited by Nancy L. Rosenblum, 245-279. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
  • "The Disability Term: Dignity, Default, and Negative Capability." UCLA Law Review 47 (June 2000): 1279-1331. Abstract
  • "Redress, Progress and the Benchmark Problem." Joint symposium issue: The Long Shadow of Korematsu. Boston College Law Review 40 (December 1998)-Boston College Third World Law Journal 19 (Fall 1998) .: 525-535.
  • "In Memoriam -- Elizabeth B. Clark." Boston University Law Review 78 (April 1998): 244-248.
  • Born Classified, Born Free: An Essay For Henry Schwarzschild. Cardozo Law Review 19 (March 1998): 1369-1392.
  • "Who Took the Awe out of Law?" Graven Images: Studies in Culture, Law and the Sacred 3 (1995): 173-182. Issue title: "Madness, Melancholy and the Limits of the Self."
  • Law and the Company We Keep. Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • "Facts, Things, and the Orphans of Girard College: Francis Lieber, Protopragmatist." Symposium on Legal and Political Hermeneutics. Cardozo Law Review 16 (April 1995): 2305-2319.
  • "Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear." Georgia Law Review 28 (Winter 1994) (Symposium: Native American Law): 533-553. [An earlier version appears as "The Task of Hearing What Has Already Been Said: History and Native American Legal Claims." Israel Yearbook on Human Rights 23 (1994): 177-192.]
  • With Miriam Wugmeister. "Mapping and Matching DNA: Several Legal Complications of `Accurate' Classifications." Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 22 (Fall 1994): 1-27.
  • "Guilt by Association." Boston College Law School Magazine 2 (Fall 1993): 9-11.
  • Preface in Narrative, Violence, and the Law: The Essays of Robert Cover, edited by Martha Minow, Michael Ryan, and Austin Sarat, vii-xii. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992.
  • "Willard Hurst, Consensus History, and The Growth of American Law." Reviews in American History 20 (1992): 124-144. [A different version appears as "Reflections on the 40th Anniversary of Hurst's Growth of American Law." Law & Social Inquiry 17 (1992): 167-179.]
  • "Ableman v. Booth, United States v. Booth (1859)," "Blatchford, Samuel," and "Clarke, John Hessin." In The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, edited by Kermit L. Hall, 2-3, 78-79, 156-157. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • "Constitutional Fictions," and "Cover, Robert M. (1943-1986)." In Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, edited by Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst, vol. Supplement 1, 108-111, 129-130. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992.
  • "The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and the 1780 Constitution." In The History of the Law in Massachusetts: The Supreme Judicial Court 1692-1992, edited by Russell K. Osgood, 207-239. Boston: Supreme Judicial Court Historical Society, 1992.
  • "On Being Overly Discrete and Insular: Involuntary Groups and the Anglo-American Judicial Tradition." Washington & Lee Law Review 48 (1991): 381-418. [An earlier version appears in Israel Yearbook on Human Rights 20 (1990): 243-286, and in The Protection of Minorities and Human Rights, edited by Yoram Dinstein and Mala Tabory, 233-276. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1992.]
  • "Moral Ambition, Formalism, and the 'Free World' of Deshaney." George Washington Law Review 57 (1989): 1513-1532.
  • "Assaying Communities: Notes from The Tempest." Conference: Pluralism and Community: Themes and Variations. Connecticut Law Review 21 (1989): 871-897.
  • "Freedom of Association: Indian Tribes, Workers, and Communal Ghosts." Sobeloff Lecture. Maryland Law Review 48 (1989): 350-383.
  • "Identificacion con la Comunidad y Derechos de las Minorias." ["Community Identification and Individual Rights," presented at a Cross-cultural Constitutional Law Conference in Madrid, June, 1988.] Revista del Centro de Estudios Constitucionales 1 (1988): 93-123.
  • "Beyond Mirrors: Lawrence Friedman's Moving Pictures." Law & Society Review 22 (1988): 995-1016.
  • "`Toward a Generalized Notion of the Right to Form or Join an Association': An Essay for Tom Emerson." Case Western Reserve Law Review 38 (1988): 641-670.
  • "Status, Contract, and Promises Unkept." Yale Law Journal 96 (1987): 1916-1959.
  • "The Paradox of Paternalism and Laissez-Faire Constitutionalism: United States Supreme Court, 1888-1921." Law and History Review 5 (1987): 249-279. [An earlier version appears in Corporations and Society: Power and Responsibility, edited by Warren J. Samuels & Arthur S. Miller, 161-190. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.]
  • "MuSings." Journal of Legal Education 36 (1987): 20-25.
  • "Legal Fictions Reviewed." Symposium: Constitution and Human Values: The Unfinished Agenda. Georgia Law Review 20 (1986): 871-915.
  • "Truisms That Never Will Be True: The Tenth Amendment and the Spending Power." University of Colorado Law Review 57 (1986): 793-833.
  • "Freedom of the Press." In Collier's Encyclopedia, vol. 10, 355-359. New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation, 1986.
  • "Carolene Products Company, United States v. Footnote Four. 304 U.S. 144 (1938)," and "Guilt by Association." In Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, edited by Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst, vol. 1, 213-215; vol. 2, 877. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1986.
  • "Confronting Deep Strictures: Robinson, Rickey, and Racism." Symposium on Critical Legal Studies. Cardozo Law Review 6 (1985): 865-869.
  • "Freedom of the Press in the United States." In Press Law in Modern Democracies, edited by Pnina Lahav, 79-133. New York: Longman Press, 1985.
  • "Listening and the Voiceless." Symposium: The Law and Southern Literature. Mississippi College Law Review 4 (1984): 319-326.
  • "Professor Mooney, Judge Deady, and the Celestial Kingdom." Oregon Law Review 63 (1984): 645-648.
  • "Lawyers and Loyalty." Review of Justice At War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases, by Peter Irons. Reviews in American History 12 (1984): 575-582.
  • "Protecting Posterity." Symposium: Nuclear Weapons and Constitutional Law. Nova Law Journal 7 (1982): 39-51. [Also appears in Nuclear Weapons and Law, edited by Arthur S. Miller & Martin Feinrider, 273-285. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984.]
  • "Compromise at the Boundaries of the Law of Bondage." Review of An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity, by Paul Finkelman. Reviews in American History 10 (1982): 185-193.
  • "Complacency and Constitutional Law." Symposium: Judicial Review versus Democracy. Ohio State Law Journal 42 (1981): 383-409.
  • "Rehnquist: Trying to Recapture an Imaginary, Idyllic Past." Burger Court Symposium. National Law Journal, February 18, 1980, 21, 28.
  • "Protecting Civil Rights: A Critique of Raoul Berger's History." New York University Law Review 54 (1979): 651-706.
  • Review of The Sources of Antislavery Constitutionalism 1760-1848, by William N. Wiecek. Georgetown Law Journal 67 (1979): 1281-1289.
  • Review of In the Matter of Color, by A. Leon Higginbotham. Texas Law Review 56 (1978): 1319-1329.
  • "Disarray on the High Court." Barrister 5 (Fall, 1978): 42-45.
  • With Perry Zirkel. "Teachers in the Courtroom." American Educator (Fall, 1978): 18.
  • "Every Man for Himself in the High Court." Miami Herald, Viewpoint Section, July 23, 1978, 5E.
  • With Hugh C. Macgill. "The Younger Doctrine: Reconstructing Reconstruction." Texas Law Review 55 (1977): 1141-1215.
  • "Parental Autonomy, Family Rights and the Illegitimate: A Constitutional Commentary." Connecticut Law Review 7 (1974): 1-55.
  • Review of The Amendment that Refused to Die, by Howard N. Meyer. Law Library Journal 67 (1974): 318.