Professor Daniel Ernst Authors New Book

June 9, 2014 —

In his book Toqueville’s Nightmare: The Administrative State Emerges in America, 1900-1940 (Oxford University Press, 2014), Georgetown University Law Center Professor Daniel R. Ernst chronicles the development of the administrative state in this country and provides a riveting history of a fundamental aspect of modern American life.

The title refers to Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville’s warning that if America ever acquired a national administrative state, “insufferable despotism” would result. Quite the contrary, says Ernst. The administrative agencies that came into their own during the first half of the 20th century were buttressed by the rule of law as revealed in common law courts. 

Ernst highlights the actions of such icons as legal scholar Ernst Freund, Harvard Law School Dean Roscoe Pound and Supreme Court Justices Felix Frankfurter and Charles Evans Hughes in bringing these changes about. Of Hughes, Ernst says, “[N]o one did more to make administration over in the image of the courts.” 

“Daniel Ernst provides a wonderfully rich and subtly revisionist account of one of the crucial eras in the development of American administrative law,” says Jerry L. Mashaw, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale University. “Daniel Ernst has put forth an account of the growth of the American administrative state that reveals the limitations of conventional wisdom and is likely to become authoritative,” says G. Edward White, the David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law and University Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Professor Daniel Ernst has been a member of the Georgetown Law faculty since 1988. His first book, Lawyers against Labor (University of Illinois Press, 1995), won the Littleton-Griswold Award of the American Historical Association. He has been a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, a Fulbright Research Scholar at the National Library of New Zealand and a co-editor of “Studies in Legal History,” a book series sponsored by the American Society for Legal History. He teaches the courses Property in Time, American Legal History and New Deal Legal History Seminar.

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