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About Patrick McKinley Brennan

Patrick McKinley Brennan joined the Villanova faculty in 2004 as the inaugural holder of the John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies and later also served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the Joint J.D./M.B.A. Program. Professor Brennan works in the tradition of reflection on natural law and natural rights to examine a wide range of contemporary questions in jurisprudence and public law, including sovereignty, equality, authority, the rule of law, constitutionalism, the family, and punishment and forgiveness, as well as topics in administrative law, constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, religious liberty and the liberty of the church, and criminal law. He has regularly taught constitutional law, administrative law, federal courts, criminal law, and a wide range of courses in jurisprudence and in law and religion.
Professor Brennan has published three books and more than sixty articles, book chapters, and essays, and he is currently completing three books. His monograph The Sovereignty of the Good: An Essay on Law, Church, and Authority will be published by Oxford University Press. His casebook (with William Brewbaker III), Christian Legal Thought: Cases and Materials, is under contract with Foundation Press. He is co-editing (with H. Jefferson Powell) Legal Affinities: Studies in the Legal Form of Thought, which will be published by Carolina Academic Press. His earlier books are By Nature Equal: The Anatomy of a Western Insight (Princeton University Press 1999) (with J. Coons), Civilizing Authority: Society, State, and Church (Lexington 2007), and The Vocation of the Child (Eerdmans 2008).
Professor Brennan’s articles and essays have appeared in the principal law reviews of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Boston College, Emory University, University of Notre Dame, Villanova University, Fordham University, Pepperdine University, and the University of San Diego, among many others. They have also appeared in such peer-reviewed journals as the American Journal of Jurisprudence, Review of Metaphysics, Law and Philosophy, Punishment and Society, Journal of Law and Religion, American Catholic Studies, Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, and Journal of Catholic Social Thought, among many others.
Before coming to Villanova, Professor Brennan was for eight years a faculty member in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, where for several years he served as Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Research and later as Vice Dean. Previously, Brennan was associated with major law firms in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Brennan clerked for Hon. John T. Noonan, Jr., on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.
A native of California, Brennan earned his J.D. from Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall), U.C. Berkeley, where he won many awards and was elected to the Order of the Coif. Prior to law school, Brennan earned an M.A. and pursued doctoral course work in philosophy at the University of Toronto, taking many of his courses there in the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. He was graduated from Yale College with a B.A. in philosophy with honors and distinction in the major. At Yale, Brennan also studied Greek and Latin and won the Jacob Cooper Prize for the best essay on ancient Greek philosophy.
Professor Brennan has been a visiting professor in the Boston College Law School and a senior research fellow at the Robbins Collection of Canon and Civil Law at U.C. Berkeley. Brennan has also been a scholar in residence at the Columbus School of Law, The Catholic University of America, where he delivered the Brendan F. Brown Lecture in 2006. Brennan has delivered the Yves Simon Lecture at the University of Chicago and the Donald M. Giannella Lecture at Villanova University. Professor Brennan has served a term as an elected member of the board of the American Catholic Philosophical Association.
At Villanova, Brennan organizes the annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics, and Culture. Keynote speakers have included the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Justice Antonin Scalia, Martha Nussbaum, Joseph Vining, John Ferejohn, William Eskridge, John Finnis, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. Other speakers have included Jeremy Waldron, Geoff Stone, Jesse Choper, Lee Bollinger, Roderick Hills, Jane Schacter, Kristin Hickman, Jefferson Powell, Henry Paul Monaghan, Amy Uelmen, Richard Garnett, Kent Greenawalt, Peter Steinfels, Rev. Bryan Hehir, Candace Vogler, and many others.


Present Professor of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law



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  • Constitutional Law
  • Justice and Rights
  • Administrative Law
  • Jurisprudence
  • "Law, Politics, and Human Nature: The Teachings of Modern Christianity"
  • Criminal Law

Contact Information

Phone: 610-519-7073
Fax: 610-519-6282

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