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New Penn State Law faculty members build bridges across Penn State

Penn State Law welcomes to the faculty Assistant Professor of Law and Medicine Megan Wright, Assistant Professor of Law Ben Johnson, and Professor of Legal Research Jenny Ham.
New Penn State Law faculty 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.  – Penn State Law is delighted to welcome three new faculty members to University Park this fall, all of whom will advance the law school’s efforts to collaborate across the University to impact the world.

Megan Wright will be an assistant professor of law and medicine—Penn State Law’s first joint appointment with the College of Medicine—as well as an affiliate faculty member with the Department of Sociology in the College of the Liberal Arts. Ben Johnson will join the law faculty as an assistant professor of law and will hold affiliate faculty positions with the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the Department of Political Science in the College of the Liberal Arts. Jenny Ham joins the faculty of the H. Laddie Montague Jr. Law Library as a reference and information services librarian and professor of legal research.  

“I’m thrilled to welcome these impressive new faculty members to Penn State Law in University Park,” said Hari M. Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. “Their interdisciplinary expertise and innovative scholarship will help to move the law school forward in partnership with the university.

“Professor Wright’s important scholarship on issues of autonomy and health care decision making will provide opportunities to grow collaborations between Penn State Law and the College of Medicine,” Osofsky said. “Professor Johnson’s cutting-edge research using machine learning to analyze Supreme Court certiorari decisions is a great fit for our initiatives in the legal-tech arena. I am excited for the new partnerships that will emerge from their appointments across four other units at Penn State.

“Professor Ham brings several years of experience in library science and adds to our already-excellent law library faculty. Her ideas for innovating with technology will be a major asset to our new Legal-Tech Virtual Lab and other technology initiatives.”

One of the law school’s strategic priorities under Osofsky is to increase collaboration between Penn State Law and the rest of the University, particularly in the STEM fields that are a significant strength of Penn State. In addition to teaching, Wright will work with the law school and the College of Medicine to grow research and teaching alliances between the two schools and develop an interdisciplinary program in health law. Johnson brings a background in investment banking and is developing a quantitative business course for law students, which will strengthen the law school’s already-robust offerings in business law. He will teach Federal Courts, allowing the law school to offer the course every year, growing the opportunities for Penn State Law graduates to secure highly coveted judicial clerkships, another key priority under Osofsky.

Wright comes to Penn State from Weill Cornell Medical College, where she was a postdoctoral associate of medical ethics. Concurrently, she served as a research fellow and senior adviser to the Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury Project at the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School. Wright holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Arizona, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a B.S. in sociology from Brigham Young University.

Her research and teaching interests include bioethics and law, disability law, empirical legal studies, health law, law and sociology, private law, and public health law. Her scholarship has been published or accepted for publication in the Maryland Law Review, Stanford Technology Law Review, Florida State University Law Review, Yale Law and Policy Review, Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics, Berkeley Journal of African-American Law and Policy, JAMA Internal Medicine, and the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, among others.

Prior to earning her J.D., Wright served as a law and social science research fellow at the James E. Rogers College of Law and as a qualitative analyst at the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, both at the University of Arizona.

Johnson joins Penn State Law after earning his Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University. He also holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.A. in economics from Boston University, and a B.A. from Baylor University.

His research, which has been accepted for publication in journals including the Connecticut Law Review and the University of Illinois Law Review, focuses on how judges make decisions, the consequences of judicial decision making, and the normative implications of judicial processes. His innovative methods include a mix of statistical, machine learning, formal modeling, and legal analysis.

Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Johnson worked in private practice in Dallas, Texas.

Ham comes to Penn State Law from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where she served as research and instructional services librarian since 2015. At Oklahoma, she taught Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis I and II, provided research instruction in additional law courses, and supported law faculty research and curriculum.

Prior to joining Oklahoma, Ham served as both the faculty research service assistant and the law library reference assistant at the University of Tennessee College of Law. She also served as a research assistant for a law professor in support of a trust and estate treatise where she researched statutes, cases, and regulations as well as reviewed new legislation and cases for relevance for inclusion in the treatise.

Ham holds a J.D., a master of information science, and a bachelor of science in food science and technology, all from the University of Tennessee.

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