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Mitchell Wins Top ABA Award

Professor recognized for excellence in advocacy for property rights and policies.

Professor Thomas Mitchell  Photograph by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation—used with permission.

Boston College Law Professor Thomas W. Mitchell has been selected as a recipient of the American Bar Association’s Jefferson B. Fordham Awards. The awards are presented on an annual basis in the categories of Lifetime Achievement, Advocacy, Up & Comers, and Law Office Accomplishment. Mitchell’s award honors his excellence in Advocacy.

Named in commemoration of Jefferson B. Fordham, the first chair of the Section of State and Local Government, the four awards recognize practitioners and institutions committed to state, local, regional, and tribal law. The Advocacy award celebrates the accomplishments of legal professionals whose practices focus on promoting justice in these areas.

“Professor Mitchell’s scholarship has contributed extensively to the reform of property right laws and policies that impact disadvantaged communities,” said BC Law Interim Dean Diane Ring. “We applaud his achievements and are thrilled to congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”

“I am very honored to be a recipient of the venerable Jefferson Fordham Advocacy Award,” said Mitchell. “I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked with two sections of the ABA in a variety of meaningful ways over the course of the past twenty years, including by serving on a Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section (RPTE) task force that proposed that the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) establish a drafting committee to develop what became the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA). I’ve also been able to engage in various scholarly and outreach projects over the course of many years with the State and Local Government Law Section. In my ABA service work, I’ve worked closely with truly great people and deeply committed advocates for justice.”

Mitchell, whose legal expertise includes property law, land use, minority property ownership, and legal reform, is the second holder of the Robert F. Drinan, SJ, Chair and Director of the Initiative on Promoting Land and Housing Rights at Boston College Law School. In 2020, he was named a MacArthur Fellow in recognition of his reform work.

Notably, Mitchell served as the principal drafter of the 2010 UPHPA. Designed to protect property inheritors from losing their land through forced sales, an issue that has historically affected middle- to low-income families, the act has been signed into law in twenty states and the US Virgin Islands. Benjamin Orzeske, Chief Counsel of the Uniform Law Commission, praised Mitchell’s contribution to the act as “an exemplary case of successful law reform that has helped countless formerly vulnerable families build and retain generational wealth through real estate ownership.”

Mitchell is a previous recipient of the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award in honor of his mentorship to law students who have pursued legal careers in social justice. In 2021, The Journal of Black Innovation named Mitchell one of the 50 most important African Americans in infrastructure. He is also a 2021 recipient of the Howard University Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement.

More: Professor Mitchell’s website