The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

Main menu:

October 8, 2003

Press Contact: Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 471.7330

UT Law Professor Thomas McGarity Named to National Public Interest Hall of Fame

Founder of "virtual" think tank is recognized for extraordinary contributions to social justice

Thomas O. McGarity
Thomas O. McGarity

AUSTIN, Texas - Thomas O. McGarity, one of the nation's leading administrative and environmental law scholars at The University of Texas School of Law, has been selected as one of 12 people in the inaugural class of the newly-created Public Interest Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. Professor McGarity, a 1974 graduate of UT Law, will be inducted on Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Steward R. Mott House in Washington, D.C., by OMB Watch, a Washington-based public interest organization, during its 20th anniversary celebration.

"Tom McGarity's quarter-century of distinguished scholarship has put him at the very front ranks of law professors working in administrative and environmental law," said UT Law Dean William Powers. "This richly deserved honor also reminds us that Tom's work has had a profound impact beyond the walls of the academy. He embodies the best in scholarship to which we all aspire," Powers said.

OMB Watch named McGarity to the Hall of Fame for his three decades of championing justice in areas such as environmental policy, worker health and safety, bioengineering, and drug safety. An expert in regulatory law and policy, McGarity was among the first to expose national concerns like industry domination of scientific research, the pitfalls of cost-benefit analysis, and the dangers of substituting voluntary standards for enforceable regulations. He has participated in landmark cases and has testified and written extensively about the need for a strong regulatory framework. McGarity is also founder and president of the new Center for Progressive Regulation (CPR), a "virtual" think tank for academics across the country working for progressive regulation.

McGarity has taught and written in the areas of administrative law, environmental law, occupational safety and health law, food safety law, science and the law, and torts for 25 years. He joined UT Law in 1980 and holds the W. James Kronzer Chair in Trial and Appellate Advocacy. While in academia, he has served as counsel or a consultant to many entities and organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the American Lung Association, Texas Rural Legal Aid, and the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of several books including Workers at Risk (Praeger, 1993) (co-author), and Reinventing Rationality: The Role of Regulatory Analysis in the Federal Bureaucracy (Cambridge, 1991). He has also published dozens of articles in prominent law reviews such as the Harvard Law Review, Chicago Law Review, Pennsylvania Law Review and Law & Contemporary Problems.

The purpose of the new Public Interest Hall of Fame is to call attention to individuals who have gone largely unrecognized despite making extraordinary contributions to the causes of social justice, government accountability, and citizen participation. "We were looking for unsung heroes, for people who have shown a huge commitment to protecting and promoting the public interest but who have received very little attention for their efforts. Tom McGarity certainly meets that criteria and richly deserves the award," said Gary D. Bass, OMB Watch executive director. OMB Watch was founded in 1983 to monitor the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which oversees regulation, the federal budget, and information collection and dissemination. The organization now concentrates on government accountability in four policy areas: budget and government performance; the regulatory process; government secrecy; and policies affecting the nonprofit sector, particularly relating to free speech.

"I feel very honored to be named to a group that includes so many who have struggled at considerable personal sacrifice to advance the public interest," McGarity said. "With the extraordinary support that I have received from the law school, my limited efforts to ensure that the public goals do not get lost in our increasingly vigorous pursuit of private ends have involved many rewards and relatively modest sacrifices," he added.

The induction ceremony for McGarity and the other honorees will be hosted by Masters of Ceremonies John Podesta, former President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff, and Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way & People for the American Way Foundation. McGarity was selected out of a pool of roughly 70 nominees from around the country. Nominees included organizers, academics, lawyers, congressional staffers, and service providers working on an array of issues, including disability rights, environmental protection, economic justice, workers' rights, media advocacy, and government accountability. The OMB Watch selection committee chose inductees on the basis of unusual courage, creativity, commitment, or tenacity; a significant success or series of successes; or especially effective leadership. Information about all honorees is available at