Fitzpatrick’s appointment was announced by Dean Chris Guthrie, and he was among 29 newly appointed chair holders honored by Vanderbilt University Nov. 11. In addition to serving on the faculty of the law school’s Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program, Fitzpatrick is affiliated with the Law and Business and Law and Government programs. He was the 2014-15 FedEx Research Professor of Law.
“Brian Fitzpatrick is a gifted scholar and revered teacher whose recent book makes a compelling case for class action lawsuits,” Guthrie said. “He is a deserving recipient of the Underwood Chair in Free Enterprise, and I look forward to his future contributions to his field and to the law school.”
An expert in complex litigation, Fitzpatrick is most recently the author of The Conservative Case of Class Actions, published in 2019 by the University of Chicago Press, and “Why Class Actions Are Something Both Liberals and Conservatives Can Love,” a 2020 article published in the Vanderbilt Law Review. His work exploring such issues as third-party litigation financing, class arbitration, class action settlements and fee awards and private enforcement has been published in the Chicago, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Notre Dame, Ohio, Arizona and Virginia law reviews, among others, as well as the New York University journals of Law & Business and Law & Liberty.
He is currently working on The Cambridge Handbook of Class Actions: An International Survey with co-author Randall Thomas, who holds the John S. Beasley II Chair at Vanderbilt Law School and directs the Law and Business Program.
In addition to complex litigation, Fitzpatrick has written extensively on judicial selection in state and federal courts.
At Vanderbilt, he teaches Civil Procedure, Complex Litigation, Federal Courts and Comparative Class Actions. He has been honored by students with the Hall-Hartman Award for outstanding teaching and was Vanderbilt’s Association of American Law Schools Teacher of the Year in 2009. He was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School in fall 2018 and at Fordham Law School in fall 2010.
Fitzpatrick earned his J.D. at Harvard Law School, where he received the Fay Diploma for graduating first in his class and the Sears Prize for earning the highest grades in his second year. He was editor of the Harvard Law Review and a senior editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. He earned his undergraduate degree, a B.S. in engineering, at the University of Notre Dame, where he was first runner-up to valedictorian and won the Steiner Prize for overall achievement in the College of Engineering.
After law school, Fitzpatrick was a law clerk for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001-02 and for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in 2000-01. He joined Vanderbilt’s law faculty after serving as a John M. Olin Fellow at the New York University School of Law.
Before entering the legal academy, Fitzpatrick was a litigation associate with Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C., and served as a special counsel for Supreme Court nominations to Sen. John Cornyn (R, Texas) in 2005-06.
The Milton R. Underwood Chair in Free Enterprise was endowed by the Fondren Foundation to honor Milton Underwood, Class of 1928. The chair was previously held by James W. Ely, a distinguished legal historian and property rights expert who retired from Vanderbilt’s law faculty in 2009, and by Margaret Blair, an economist who took emeritus status in 2020.
The Underwood endowment supports two faculty chairs; Christopher Slobogin, who heads Vanderbilt’s Criminal Justice Program, holds the Milton R. Underwood Chair in Law.