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Laura Ray

Emerita Professor of Law

A.B., Bryn Mawr College
M.Phil., Yale University
Ph.D., Yale University
J.D., Yale Law School


Email: [email protected]

Phone: 302.477.2266


Laura K. Ray is Emerita Professor of Law at Widener Law Delaware.  She received an A.B. from Bryn Mawr College in 1967, an M.Phil. in English from Yale University in 1969, a Ph.D. in English from Yale University in 1971, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1981.

Following her law school graduation, Professor Ray clerked for Associate Justice Ellen Peter of the Connecticut Supreme Court from 1981-82.  After practicing for three years with the New London, Connecticut firm of Waller, Smith, & Palmer, she returned to the Court to serve as Executive Assistant to then Chief Justice Peters from 1985-88.

Professor Ray joined the Widener law faculty in 1988, serving as Visiting Assistant Professor from 1988-89, Assistant Professor of Law from 1989-91, Associate Professor of Law from 1991-97, and Professor of Law since 1997.  Her courses include Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Civil Procedure, Legislation, and a seminar on the Supreme Court.  Her scholarship currently focuses on the Supreme Court, its Justices, and judicial language.  

Among her professional activities, she has written for the Scotusblog website and speaks annually on the Supreme Court’s docket to students in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of Delaware.

Why do lawyers matter?  What inspires me to teach?

Many students come to Widener thinking of lawyers as practitioners who serve the specific needs of their clients.  But lawyers also serve a broader constituency - the legal system itself.  Through their understanding of constitutional principles, they are often agents of change, helping to make that system a more effective instrument of justice.   In my classes I try to convey both these roles.  I hope that my students will leave Widener with both the technical expertise a lawyer requires and a more expansive sense of the role that lawyers can play in serving both their clients and the law itself.  


Publications on Selected Works

Publications on SSRN


“The Hindrance of a Law Degree”: Justice Kagan on Law and Experience, 74 Md L. Rev. Endnotes 10 (2015).

Doctrinal Conversation: Justice Kagan’s Supreme Court Opinions, 89 Ind. L.J. Supp. 1 (2013),

A Study in Detection: The Who and Why of the Health Care Joint Dissent, 98 Iowa L. Rev. Bull. 3 (2013).

From the Bench to the Screen: The Woman Judge in Film, 60 Clev. St. L. Rev. 681 (2012).

A Modest Memoir: Justice Stevens’s Supreme Court Life, 107 Nw. U. L. Rev. Colloquy 23 (2012).

Circumstance and Strategy: Jointly Authored Supreme Court Opinions, 12 Nev. L.J. 727 (2012).

The Legacy of a Supreme Court Clerkship: Stephen Breyer and Arthur Goldberg, 115 Penn State L. Rev. 83 (2010).

Inside the Marble Palace, 12 Green Bag 2d 321 (2009) (reviewing Christopher Buckley, Supreme Courtship (Twelve 2008)).

Clerk and Justice: The Ties that Bind John Paul Stevens and Wiley B. Rutledge, 41 Conn. L. Rev. 211 (2008).

The Style of a Skeptic: The Opinions of Chief Justice Roberts, 83 Ind. L.J. 997 (2008).

Laughter at the Court: The Supreme Court as a Source of Humor, 79 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1397 (2006).

America Meets the Justices: Explaining the Supreme Court to the General Reader, 72 Tenn. L. Rev. 573 (2005).

Lives of the Justices: Supreme Court Autobiographies, 37 Conn. L. Rev. 233 (2004).

Justices at Home: Three Supreme Court Memoirs, 101 Mich. L. Rev. 2103 (2003) (reviewing Sandra Day O’Connor & H. Alan Day, Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest (2002)); The Forgotten Memoir of John Knox: A Year in the Life of a Supreme Court Clerk in FDR’s Washington (Dennis J. Hutchinson & David J. Garrow eds., 2002); and Malvina Shanklin Harlan, Some Memories of a Long Life, 1854-1911 (2002).

Judging the Justices: A Supreme Court Performance Review, 76 Temp. L. Rev. 209 (2003).

Justice Ginsburg and the Middle Way, 68 Brook. L. Rev. 629 (2003).

Judicial Personality: Rhetoric and Emotion in Supreme Court Opinions, 59 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 193 (2002).

The Road to Bush v. Gore: The History of the Supreme Court’s Use of the Per Curiam Opinion, 79 Neb. L. Rev. 517 (2000), reprinted in abridged form, as The History of the Per Curiam Opinion: Consensus and Individual Expression on the Supreme Court, 27 J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 176 (2002).

Autobiography and Opinion: The Romantic Jurisprudence of Justice William O. Douglas, 60 U. Pitt L. Rev. 707 (1999).

Judicial Fictions: Images of Supreme Court Justices in the Novel, Drama, and Film, 39 Ariz. L. Rev. 151 (1997).

A Law Clerk and His Justice: What William Rehnquist Did Not Learn From Robert Jackson, 29 Ind. L. Rev. 535 (1996).

Discipline Through Delegation: Solving the Problem of Congressional Housecleaning, 55 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 389 (1994).

From Prerogative to Accountability: The Amenability of the President to Suit, 80 KY. L.J. 739 (1991-92).

The Justices Write Separately: Uses of the Concurrence by the Rehnquist Court, 23 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 777 (1990).

Justice Brennan and the Jurisprudence of Dissent, 61 Temple L. Rev. 307 (1988).

The Figure in the Judicial Carpet: Images of Family and State in Supreme Court Opinions, 37 J. Legal Educ. 331 (1987).

Toward Contractual Rights for College Students, 10 J.L. & Educ. 163 (1981).


From Clerk to Justice, Scotusblog (May 19, 2010, 10:54a.m.),

Holder v. Hall, in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States 466 (Kermit L. Hall et al. eds., 2nd ed. 2005).

& Ellen A. Peters, Preargument Settlement Program, Conn. Law., Sept. 1988, at 6.

“Dickens and ‘The Magic Barrel’”: Studies in American Jewish Literature, 4 (1978), 35-40.

“Kenneth Grahame and the Literature of Childhood,” English Literature in Transition, 20 (1977), 3-12.

“Childhood and the English Novel,” Genre, 8 (1975), 89-106.

“The Mysteries of Gaudy Night: Feminism, Faith, and the Depths of Character,” Mystery & Detection Annual, 1973, 272-85.

Review of Ralph E. Hone, Dorothy L. Sayers: A Literary Biography, and Margaret P. Hannay, ed., As Her Whimsey Took Her, Studies in the Novel, 12 (1980), 170-73.

Review of Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catherine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity, The Yale Review, 53 (1974), vi-viii.