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Brian Fitzpatrick Professor of Law

Expert on class action litigation, federal courts, judicial selection, constitutional law and the Supreme Court.


Brian Fitzpatrick's research at Vanderbilt focuses on class action litigation, federal courts, judicial selection and constitutional law. Professor Fitzpatrick joined Vanderbilt's law faculty in 2007 after serving as the John M. Olin Fellow at New York University School of Law. He graduated first in his class from Harvard Law School and went on to clerk for Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. After his clerkships, Professor Fitzpatrick practiced commercial and appellate litigation for several years at Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C., and served as Special Counsel for Supreme Court Nominations to U.S. Senator John Cornyn. Before earning his law degree, Professor Fitzpatrick graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's of science in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He has received the Hall-Hartman Outstanding Professor Award, which recognizes excellence in classroom teaching, for his Civil Procedure course.

Media Appearances

Barrett’s Record: A Conservative Who Would Push the Supreme Court to the Right

New York Times October 15, 2020
“There may be fewer surprises from someone like her than there were from Justice Scalia,” said Brian T. Fitzpatrick, a former law clerk to the justice and a law professor at Vanderbilt University. “She is sympathetic to Justice Scalia’s methods, but I don’t get the sense that she is going to be a philosophical leader on how those methods should be executed.”

She was a professor at Notre Dame and I’m sure some of her ideas have been shaped and influenced by her students: Prof. of Law on SCOTUS nominee

Yahoo! Finance October 15, 2020
Brian Fitzpatrick, Vanderbilt University Professor of Law, joins The First Trade panel to discuss the latest with the SCOTUS hearings.

Barrett Offers Supreme Court Many Paths to Erode Abortion Rights

Bloomberg October 11, 2020
The court could reconsider the landmark 1973 ruling. In recent years, anti-abortion legislators have passed dozens of abortion bans as potential “litigation vehicles” for overturning Roe, said Brian Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt Law School, who focuses on judicial selection and constitutional law. “There is an appetite for testing out whether the Supreme Court might overrule Roe v. Wade.”

Trump-appointed judges under an election-year political lens

AP News September 24, 2020
“I think it’s very unusual to make it so explicit that this decision had nothing to do with the judge’s predispositions,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, a Vanderbilt University law professor. “That is something that normally should go without saying.” But as Fitzpatrick noted, those who sift and weigh a judge’s decisions often overlook the fact that judges must act within the tight confines of law and jurisprudence and “don’t have unfettered discretion like politicians think they do.”

Iowa Supreme Court takes a right turn under Gov. Reynolds

AP News July 03, 2019
“Iowa was near the top in terms of leftward judiciary,” said Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick, who studied 3,000 state appellate judges tracking campaign contributions, party registration and primary voting data to reflect political leaning.

Supreme Court could tip its hand on Roe v. Wade as soon as Tuesday by taking Indiana abortion case

CNBC May 26, 2019
“You have three pretty solid votes to uphold most of this, one very likely vote, Kavanaugh, and the chief justice, [but] he could be peeled off now and again,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, a former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia who teaches law at Vanderbilt University. “I would put my wagers on upholding most of these laws.”

Supreme courts Elections Courts Politics Alabama U.S. News North America Donald Trump State abortion bans may hand Democrats a political weapon

AP News May 24, 2019
Brian Fitzpatrick, a Vanderbilt Law School professor and former aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said there are many “women, moderate women who are going to be scared that this right that they thought they had for the last 40-some years is going to be shelved” and they will be motivated to vote.

Big Tech Vs. Big Privacy Lawsuits

Fortune February 22, 2019
Brian Fitzpatrick, a Vanderbilt University law professor, shares some of Senatore’s concerns. Law firms working with state attorneys general create potential conflicts of interest, he says, including the risk of AGs being influenced by campaign contributions. The worries may not be unfounded; Edelson’s firm has made a number of $10,000 donations in Illinois, including to the state’s current attorney general. Edelson responds that his firm backs politicians who “care about the same issues we do.” Fitzpatrick says forced arbitration is the greater harm because it deprives consumers of the right to sue and shields companies from accountability.

The Trump administration is taking a closer look at class-action lawsuits that pay consumers

Marketwatch February 13, 2019
Brian Fitzpatrick, a Vanderbilt Law School professor, said the motivations didn’t matter because while class action lawyers and companies might want to push through an agreed-upon deal at the end of a case, it was beneficial to have the federal government sometimes raising questions. “Our judges, as talented as they are, are accustomed to ruling in an adversarial process.”

If Republicans sour on Kavanaugh, here are 4 alternatives waiting in the wings

Vox September 27, 2018
Brian Fitzpatrick of Vanderbilt Law, who researches federal courts, told Bloomberg BNA that Thapar was ”very Scalia-like and Thomas-like” in his jurisprudence — and accordingly, when he was in the mix this summer, progressive group Demand Justice mobilized to stop his prospective nomination.