Daniel E. Walters

Associate Professor of Law

Daniel Walters

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right . . .”
    -- Judge Learned Hand

Get to Know Daniel E. Walters

What drew you to the law?

When I was an undergrad, I took a class on constitutional law where we read cases and analyzed them, much like we do in law school. I remember being impressed that, even though they often fundamentally disagreed with each other on some important and politically fraught questions, the Supreme Court justices deciding the cases didn’t just assert their positions and ignore countervailing evidence, like ordinary political actors often do. Instead, they usually worked hard to defend their positions and took each other’s views seriously. Seeing that left a mark on me: we may not always agree on the bottom line, but we should be able to agree on a method or process for engaging with each other where we can make relative evaluations about the merits of competing arguments. Law is one of society’s chief mechanisms for forcing reasoned justification—of elevating reason over will—and I’ve always been inspired by what it can do, when done right, to elevate the discourse.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Hearing from former students with updates on their careers. As important as it is, the classroom experience is ultimately a means to an end, which is preparing students to go out and have success in the legal world. When that happens and students send an email or a note to let me know, it’s a tremendously rewarding experience.

What do you hope students gain from your courses?

I hope students come away from my courses with a healthy balance of idealism and realism about the law’s promise and its limits. Students often come to law school with a strong slant toward idealism, thinking that the law is, or at least could be, this perfect system of justice bestowed on us like manna from heaven. They often leave with a strong slant toward realism, thinking that the law is all power and politics. In truth, both idealism and realism are warranted. As a human system, the legal system often falls far short of the high standards we should set for it, and students are best served by a curriculum that doesn’t shy away from looking these flaws in the eye. But students also need to come out of law school with an appreciation for what law can accomplish and with the motivation to go out and make it reality.

What did you do prior to entering academia?

Immediately prior to becoming a professor, I was a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in the Penn Program on Regulation while I finished my dissertation for a PhD. I also took a year away from that position to work as a law clerk for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where I worked on all sorts of cases, from immigration law to environmental law to antitrust law.

What are you passionate about outside of the law?

It sounds basic, but I love spending time doing anything with my wife and our two dogs, Oliver (named after Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) and Wolfgang (named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). I also love to golf, and I used to be a scratch golfer. 

What are your research interests?

I’m interested in the institution we call the “administrative state”—the collection of agencies and departments that do much of the work of policymaking for the federal government. While the administrative state has been heavily criticized and is increasingly targeted by courts and politicians, a lot of my work pushes back against these currents and shows both how the administrative state is essential to good, democratic governance and how many of the purported pathologies of the institution are not empirically verifiable. 

Relatedly, I’m interested in moving climate change law forward. There’s no bigger challenge for humanity than climate change, which one scholar called a “super wicked problem.” Addressing climate change requires major changes to existing legal frameworks governing the electric power grid, emissions control, and more, but it is often difficult to make these changes because the administrative state is increasingly hamstrung by the courts and because political actors lack the will or courage to take these temporarily painful steps. A lot of my more recent work seeks to identify legal levers for more meaningful climate action.

Publications

Link to my publications.

Presentations

  • Presenter, “Essential Oversight,” Georgetown University Law Center, September 23, 2022
  • Presenter, “Tomorrow’s Climate Law, Today,” University of California—Santa Barbara, August 13, 2022
  • Presenter, “Self-Regulation in the Cradle,” Law & Economics Center, George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law, June 7, 2022
  • Presenter, “Tomorrow’s Climate Law, Today,” Natural Resources Law Teacher’s Workshop, June 1, 2022
  • Presenter, “Grid Governance in the Energy Trilemma Era,” Villanova University School of Law, March 9, 2022
  • Presenter, “The Administrative Agon,” George Washington University Law School, February 14, 2022
  • Presenter, “The Administrative Agon,” AALS New Voices in Administrative Law, January 6, 2022
  • Presenter, “If We Build It, Will They Legislate?”, Penn State Law Faculty Works-in-Progress Series, October 28, 2021
  • Presenter, “Grid Governance in the Energy Trilemma Era,” Penn State Energy and Environmental Policy Seminar, October 27, 2021
  • Presenter, “If We Build It, Will They Legislate?”, Power in the Administrative State Series, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, October 22, 2021
  • Presenter, “The Administrative Agon,” Texas A&M University School of Law, October 4, 2021
  • Presenter, “The Administrative Agon,” University of Florida Levin College of Law, September 20, 2021
  • Presenter, “Grid Governance in the Energy Trilemma Era,” Texas A&M University School of Law, EnviroSchmooze, August 27, 2021
  • Panelist, “Chevron: Theory and Politics,” Duke Law Journal Symposium on Administrative Law, Zoom, USA, February 5, 2021
  • Presenter, “Decoding Nondelegation After Gundy,” C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State Research Roundtable on “Labs of Democracy, Labs of Liberty, Labs of Administration,” Zoom, USA, January 14, 2021
  • Presenter, “The Legal Environment for RGGI in Pennsylvania,” Penn State Center for Energy Law & Policy RGGI Webinar Series, Zoom, USA, November 6, 2020
  • Presenter, “Lumpy Social Goods in Energy Decarbonization,” Early Career Energy Scholars Workshop, Zoom, USA, June 2020
  • Presenter, “Whither the War on Coal,” AALS Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 5, 2020
  • Presenter, “Symmetry’s Mandate,” AALS Annual Meeting, New Voices in Administrative Law and Legislation, January 3, 2020
  • Presenter, “Waivers, Exceptions, and Exemptions in the Trump Era: Environmental Regulation Outside the Protection of Administrative Law,” AALS Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 3, 2020
  • Presenter, “A Responsive Bureaucracy,” Administrative Law Conference Pre-Conference Scholarship Roundtable, ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, Washington, DC, November 13, 2019
  • Presenter, “Round Two: A Half Century of EPA Rulemakings in the Courts,” Case Western Reserve University School of Law Symposium, Cleveland, OH, October 18, 2019
  • Presenter, “Whither the War on Coal,” Natural Resources Law Teacher’s Workshop, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Monterey, CA, July 20, 2019
  • Presenter, “Asymmetric Judicial Abdication,” Administrative Law Roundtable, University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, WI, June 11, 2019
  • Presenter, “The Responsive Bureaucracy,” Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, March 4, 2019
  • Panelist, Energy Law & Policy, PSU Energy Days, University Park, PA, May 30, 2019
  • Panelist, “Is There a Constitutional Right to a Clean Environment?”, University of Pennsylvania Law School, March 13, 2019
  • Presenter, “Animal Agriculture Liability for Climatic Nuisance, Columbia Journal of Environmental Law Climate Change Symposium, New York, NY, March 12, 2019
  • Presenter, “Animal Agriculture Liability for Climatic Nuisance,” Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA, March 8, 2019
  • Panel Chair, “Administrative Constitutionalism in the Modern Administrative State” (part of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review’s symposium “The History, Theory, and Practice of Administrative Constitutionalism), Philadelphia, PA, October 2018
  • Presenter, “The Self-Delegation False Alarm,” Faculty Workshop Series, Michigan State University College of Law School, East Lansing, MI, October 3, 2018
  • Presenter, “The Responsive Bureaucracy,” American Politics Workshop, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, October 1, 2018
  • Presenter, “The Self-Delegation False Alarm,” Future Environmental Law Professors Workshop, Pace University, White Plains, NY, September 14, 2018
  • Presenter, “The Self-Delegation False Alarm,” Southeastern Association of Law Schools Prospective Law Teachers Workshop, Fort Lauderdale, FL, August 5-7, 2018
  • Presenter, “The Self-Delegation False Alarm,” Regulatory Law & Policy Seminar, October 2017
  • Presenter, “Auer’s Incentives,” Administrative Law New Scholarship Roundtable, Columbus, OH, June 27-28, 2017
  • Presenter, “Auer’s Incentives,” American Politics Workshop, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, April 10, 2017
  • Presenter, “The Judicial Role in Constraining Presidential Non-Enforcement Discretion,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review Symposium, Philadelphia, PA, October 17, 2015
  • Dialogue Leader, Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Regulatory Excellence, Calgary, Alberta, April 12-14, 2015
  • Co-organizer and Presenter, “Agenda-Setting in the Regulatory State: Institutions, Theory, and Evidence,” Penn Program on Regulation, Washington, D.C., November 7, 2014
  • Presenter, “An Agonistic Model of Administrative Law,” Texas Graduate Public Law Conference, Austin, TX, October 30-November 1, 2014
  • Presenter, “Litigating Agency Inaction: When and Why Courts Respond,” Law & Society Association Conference, Minneapolis, MN, May 29-31, 2014
  • Presenter, “Litigating Agency Inaction: When and Why Courts Respond,” Midwest Political Science Association Conference, Chicago, IL, April 3-6, 2014
  • Presenter, “The Presumption of Reviewability in Administrative Law,” Regulatory Law & Policy Seminar, March 2014
  • Discussant, Panel on “Regulation,” Conference on Empirical Legal Studies, Philadelphia, PA, October 25-26, 2013
  • Presenter, “Scientific Expertise and the Balance of Political Interests,” Midwest Political Science Association Convention, Chicago, IL, April 23, 2010
  • Presenter, “Litigation-Fostered Bureaucratic Autonomy,” Midwest Law and Society Retreat, Institute for Legal Studies, Madison, WI, Fall 2008
  • Presenter, “Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Bureaucratic Resistance,” Summer Research Seminar on “Constitutionalism,” Institute for Constitutional Studies, George Washington University Law School, Washington D.C., 2007
  • Expertise

  • Administrative Law
  • Regulation
  • Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
  • Energy Law and Policy
  • Climate Change Law and Policy
  • Environmental Law
  • Food Law
  • Empirical Legal Studies
  • Courses

  • Administrative Law
  • Civil Procedure
  • Legislation and Regulation
  • Energy Law and Policy
  • Climate Change Law and Policy
  • Food, Sustainability, and the Law
  • Academic Experience

  • Associate Professor of Law
    Texas A&M University School of Law (2022-present)
  • Assistant Professor of Law
    Penn State Law (2019-2022)
  • Regulation Fellow
    University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law (2013-2015 & 2016-2019)
  • Education

  • J.D., University of Michigan Law School
  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.A., University of Southern California
  • B.A., Northern Illinois University
  • Awards / Honors

  • Selected for inclusion in the 13th Edition of the Environmental Law Institute’s Environmental Law and Policy Review, which included the top 20 environmental law articles published from August 2018 to July 2019
  • Winner of the American Constitution Society’s Richard D. Cudahy Writing Competition on Regulatory and Administrative Law (student category)
  • Winner of the Beryl Radin Award from the Public Management Research Association
  • Other Professional Activities

  • Editor-in-Chief, Administrative & Regulatory Law News, ABA Section on Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice (2020-present)
  • Member of the Bar (Illinois)
  • Trustee, Foundation for Natural Resources & Energy Law (2021-2022)