Law and Society Association names Sarah Seo winner of its 2017 Dissertation Prize

Law and Society Association names Sarah Seo winner of its 2017 Dissertation Prize

University of Iowa law professor Sarah Seo was recently named the winner of the Law and Society Association’s 2017 Dissertation Prize.

The prize is awarded to the dissertation that best represents outstanding work in law and society research in 2016.

Her dissertation, “The Fourth Amendment, Cars, and Freedom in Twentieth Century America,” was nominated by Hendrik Hartog of Princeton University.

The Law and Society Association shared the following about the basis for her award:

“Sarah Seo’s dissertation is an imaginative and beautifully written study of how the advent of cars on American roadways presented new challenges for policing, while it altered conventional notions of freedom and ultimately resulted in a new legal doctrine around Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.

“Through meticulous attention to a wide range of primary-source materials and extensive examination of court decisions, Seo shows that the new technology of the automobile changed expectations of mobility and freedom, while at the same time destabilizing notions of private space and regulatory authority. Seo skillfully traces the way that these new realities shaped the development of legal doctrine and catalyzed a shift towards proceduralism in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

“In showing the links between technology, police practices, and legal change, Seo challenges long-standing explanations of the Warren Court’s due process revolution. The selection committee was impressed with the creativity of the study, the quality of the data that was marshaled, the intellectual depth of the argument, and the elegance of the prose. Seo’s dissertation makes a significant contribution to the literature on the Fourth Amendment and U.S. legal change more broadly.”

The awards will be presented at the International Meeting in Mexico City on Wednesday, June 21.

For more information on the 2017 Law and Society Association Winners, visit

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