Professor Anita S. Krishnakumar Installed as Inaugural Mary C. Daly Professor of Law

Anita S. Krishnakumar and Michael A. Simons
December 7, 2018

On December 5, 2018, faculty, administrators, friends, and family gathered for the installation of Professor Anita S. Krishnakumar as the inaugural Mary C. Daly Professor of Law.

The new professorship is named for Mary C. Daly, who served as dean of St. John’s Law from 2004 until her untimely death in 2008. The first woman to lead the Law School, Dean Daly was also an accomplished scholar of professional responsibility. She was the John V. Brennan Professor of Law and Ethics at St. John’s and, before that, was the James H. Quinn Professor of Law at Fordham University. “Mary was a dynamic and impactful dean, and St. John’s Law is a better institution because of her insightful leadership,” says Dean Michael A. Simons. “I was fortunate to have her as a mentor, and we’re all fortunate that she had the foresight to hire Professor Anita Krishnakumar onto our faculty in 2006. It was very special to have Mary’s husband, Tony, and their children, Anthony, Stephen, and Meg, with us as we celebrated this milestone occasion.”

View Event Photo Gallery

Professor Krishnakumar brings a wealth of experience and insight as a lawyer, legal scholar, and law school educator to her new role as the Daly Professor. After graduating with distinction from Stanford University and Yale Law School, she clerked for the Hon. José A. Cabranes on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and was an associate at two major New York City law firms. Her work teaching Legislation and Statutory Interpretation, Administrative Law, Introduction to Law, Trusts and Estates, and a Colloquium on Advanced Topics in Legislation and Statutory Interpretation at St. John’s Law has earned Professor Krishnakumar recognition and awards, including the Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award presented by St. John’s University. She has served as the Law School’s Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship since 2016.

At the installation ceremony, Professor Krishnakumar delivered the Mary C. Daly Lecture on her legal scholarship, which explores a range of legislative process and statutory interpretation issues—including the congressional budget process, lobbying regulations, and interpretive trends in the U.S. Supreme Court's statutory jurisprudence. In the past five years, she has authored six articles and two book reviews appearing in the: Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, University of Chicago Law ReviewVirginia Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Texas Law Review, George Washington Law Review, and Fordham Law Review.

“Passive Avoidance,” 71 Stan. L. Rev. (forthcoming), Professor Krishnakumar's most recent article, illuminates an underappreciated shift in the Roberts Court's approach to the canon of constitutional avoidance, arguing that the Court has adopted a “passive” form of avoidance, in which it effectively avoids deciding controversial, unresolved constitutional questions—but without invoking the avoidance canon and without openly admitting to rewriting or straining the statute’s text. 

Her earlier work includes “Textualism and Statutory Precedents,” 104 Va. L. Rev. (2018), which explores textualist jurists' surprising willingness to abandon stare decisis in certain statutory cases. Professor Krishnakumar’s empirical work, including “Dueling Canons,” 65 Duke L. J. 909 (2016) and “Reconsidering Substantive Canons,” 84 U. Chi. L. Rev. 825 (2017), offers important data regarding the extent to which the justices on the Roberts Court use the same interpretive tool to support opposing readings of a statute in the same case and the extent to which textualist justices rely on substantive policy canons to fill in gaps left by a purely textual analysis.

Anita is that rare and wonderful legal academic who is an extraordinarily productive and accomplished scholar, a beloved classroom teacher, and a true institutional servant,” Dean Simons says. “Her work in legislation and statutory interpretation provides important insights into the interpretive tools used by the Supreme Court, and she has become one of the most astute observers of the statutory jurisprudence of Roberts Court. She has also played a key role in the development of a rich scholarly culture at St. John’s. And, so, it was a particular joy for me to award Anita the Mary C. Daly Professorship.”

At the ceremony, Professor Krishnakumar prefaced her lecture by thanking her family and colleagues for their support and reflecting on the honor of being the inaugural Daly Professor: “Mary was the dean who hired me, and I admired and respected her tremendously. In fact, she is the main reason I accepted the offer to come teach at St. John’s—I was so impressed with her from the moment I met her. And in the short time that I worked with Mary, my respect for her only increased. She was such a graceful leader—fierce in her convictions and ambitions for the Law School, but also an excellent manager who knew how to make people feel valued—and how to solidly steer the ship. She was also kind-hearted, warm, and could be quite funny when she wanted to. I’m deeply touched and honored to receive a chair named after her. It means more to me than I can adequately express—and I will do my best to live up to the memory of the exceptional person and role model that this chair is named after.”