Farah Peterson is a legal historian whose work focuses on statutory interpretation and judicial authority, with an emphasis on 18th- and early 19th-century American legal history. In a piece forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal, she explains that the flexible, purposive approach to constitutional interpretation that is so often contrasted with a restrictive “originalist” reading is, in fact, as old as the document itself. Another recent paper explores the Revolutionary-era belief that Americans were governed not only by the new Constitution, but also by unwritten commitments that pre-dated the Founding and, among other things, validated popular, or “mob,” action in the streets. She has also written pieces that connect early American history to present-day events, including the essays “Black Lives and the Boston Massacre” and “The Patriot Slave,” published in The American Scholar.
Peterson holds a BA in history and a JD from Yale University, as well as a PhD in American history from Princeton University. She clerked for Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and Guido Calabresi, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Most recently, she was a member of the faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.