Professor of Law
University of Virginia
James Ryan is the William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1998. Professor Ryan teaches a variety of courses, including constitutional law, law and education, and land use law. He is also an instructor in the Supreme Court litigation clinic and argued his first case before the Supreme Court this past fall.
Professor Ryan served for five years as Academic Associate Dean. In 2008, he helped create and now directs the law school’s program in law and public service.
Professor Ryan’s scholarship focuses on law and educational opportunity. He has authored articles on school finance, school desegregation, school choice, a right to preschool, and the No Child Left Behind Act, which have appeared in the leading law journals in the country. He has also written commentary for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Washington Post, Slate, Education Week, Phi Delta Kappan, and The New Republic.
In 2010, Professor Ryan published Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America with Oxford University Press. The book uses two schools in the Richmond area—one in the city of Richmond and the other in Henrico County—to explain how law and politics have shaped educational opportunity over the last half century.
In 2004, Professor Ryan was awarded the McFarland Prize for Outstanding Scholarship, a biennial award given to a member of the University of Virginia law school faculty. That same year, he also received the Black Law Students Association Outstanding Service Award. In 2008, Professor Ryan was given the Education Law Association’s Award for Distinguished Scholarship, and in 2010, he received an All-University Teaching Award.
Professor Ryan received his B.A from Yale University in 1988 and his J.D. from the University of Virginia in 1992. Following graduation, he served as a clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Professor Ryan has been a visiting professor at Yale and Harvard and was the inaugural Cameron Fellow at the University of Auckland.
"In my view, law is intellectually stimulating, but it is also intensely practical. I find teaching law rewarding precisely because of this combination. I am especially interested in the way that law structures opportunities for individuals and institutions, and I try to remind students in class that we are not simply debating abstract principles, but rather rules that affect how people live their lives."