Ashley Angeloti '17
The Law Weekly staff took Professor Michael Gilbert to lunch a few weeks ago to learn a little bit more about one of UVa’s Law and Economics experts. In addition to his background in economics, he also is considered an expert in issues related to legislation, election law, judicial decision-making, and direct democracy.
After graduating from Tulane University, Gilbert spent three years working as a research assistant for the Federal Reserve Board in DC. During his time in DC, he met many of the Federal Reserve Board governors, including Ben Bernanke. His time at the Fed made Gilbert realize that, in addition to his love of economics, he also loved the law.
With that knowledge, he decided to apply to JD/Ph.D. programs across the country, and finally decided on Berkeley Law. Before starting school, he backpacked in South America for over two months, finally using the Spanish that he studied while at Tulane.
During his 1L summer, despite having never worked at a law firm, Professor Gilbert decided to join Clifford Chance’s litigation group. The next summer, he worked at Skadden’s London office to learn more about transactional law. During his time at Berkeley, he also served as the Articles Editor of the California Law Review. He was also an Olin Fellow in Law and Economics and received a grant from the National Science Foundation for his dissertation research.
After graduating, Gilbert clerked for a year at the 9th Circuit for Judge William “Willy” Fletcher, who was also his Federal Courts professor at Berkeley. While he states that he does not “obsess” over the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), he admits that his favorite Justice would be Scalia because of his legal mind. He also likes Justice Kagan. Gilbert is one of many who believe we should appoint SCOTUS justices for eighteen-year terms rather than lifelong terms. He said that, right now, a “SCOTUS appointment is an appointment for life, at a minimum.” Gilbert rationalizes this idea by recognizing that the more that justices are empowered, the more they feel free to make whichever policy decisions they want, no matter how far to the left or right they may be.
In 2009, Professor Gilbert finished his clerkship and joined the UVA Law faculty. When asked, “Why UVa?” Gilbert replied that the Law School was a “natural fit” for him and his family. He wanted to become an academic because he loves teaching, meeting interesting people, traveling to interesting places to teach or lecture, and writing papers. When writing academic papers, Professor Gilbert explained that he feels like Indiana Jones because he gets to explore a new area of the law or a unique way of looking at problems.
He is currently teaching only two classes this year because he is in the middle of writing a casebook on law and economics with a professor from Berkeley. While there are casebooks on topics covered in Law and Economics I, there is none on the topics in his Law and Economics II class, which looks at public law from an economic perspective. Despite teaching at UVA since 2009, Professor Gilbert has never taught a 1L class.
Outside of work, Professor Gilbert is married with two young kids. He can typically be found spending time with his family, traveling, or exercising. If he can ever find the time, he would love to learn about photography. He also loves eating at restaurants around Charlottesville. If someone else is paying, he loves to go to Fleurie, a French restaurant on the Downtown Mall. Otherwise, his favorite place is Al Carbon.
Right now, he is reading Harry Potter and Timmy Failure with his kids. His favorite books include Siddhartha, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and All Quiet on the Western Front. His favorite movies include V for Vendetta, Mosquito Coast, and Y Tu Mama Tambien. While Professor Gilbert’s wife is convinced that his movie choices show that he is a “libertarian survivalist” at heart. He disagrees.
At the end of our lunch, we asked him about his best “unpopular opinion,” or a belief that he holds that would not be well received by others. He responded by stating that while he has enormous admiration for President Obama, he believes that the United States may have benefitted if it had elected Mitt Romney in 2012. Professor Gilbert rationalizes this view by saying that, had Romney been elected, the Republican Party may not be so divided, and we may have been saved from our current problem with Donald Trump. While this would not be well received by Trump supporters or Obama supporters, he does make a good point regarding the current state of the Republican Party.
While Professor Gilbert is only teaching Law and Economics I this semester, Law and Economics II in the Spring, and a yearlong Seminar in Ethical Values, he usually teaches other courses throughout the year. His other classes include Legislation and Regulation of the Political Process. If you are a 1L or 2L (and Law and Economics is not your thing), you can still try to take one of his other classes next year, after he has finished his casebook.