MSU Law Professor Awarded Prestigious Dudziak Prize

MSU Law Professor Justin Simard received the Mary L. Dudziak Legal History Prize for his Citing Slavery Project. The award, presented by the American Society for Legal History, recognizes “outstanding digital legal history” projects.

Professor Simard, Associate Professor of Law, launched the Citing Slavery Project in 2020 after seeing repeated use of slave cases as precedent in legal proceedings. He and teams of law students have developed and continued to update an online database of published civil case decisions. “The committee applauds Dr. Simard and his team for the scholarly importance and intellectual generosity of this enlightening digital legal history project,” stated the American Society of Legal History.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the Society with such a significant award,” said Professor Simard. “I am especially excited for the students working on the project who have invested more than 2,000 hours collecting cases and contributing to the project in many other ways.”

In its recognition of Professor Simard, the prize committee cited two major milestones this year. “First, Professor Simard and his team completed the initial compilation of 9,000 slave cases from 42 states and territories. Second, they linked their database to Harvard’s open source Caselaw Access Project. The link is especially significant because it facilitates the project’s analytical arm (tracking primary and secondary citations to slave cases) and its publicity arm (allowing everyday users direct access to the text and original scans of the slavery opinions).”

The Dudziak Prize is named in honor of “Mary L. Dudziak, a leading scholar of twentieth century U.S. legal history and international relations as well as a digital history pioneer.” The American Society for Legal History was founded in 1956 to “foster interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in the broad field of legal history.”