Earlier this week, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced this year’s roster of MacArthur Fellowship recipients — the winners of the so-called “Genius Grants.” According to the Foundation, it awards the prestigious grants to those who “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.” MacArthur fellows receive $625,000 stipends, with no strings attached . . . except, you know, continuing to be brilliant.

Past MacArthur Genius Grant winners include minds as diverse as paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould; computer scientist and physicist Stephen Wolfram; writers like Cormac McCarthy, David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; filmmaker Errol Morris; cognitive scientist Amos Tversky; dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp; philosopher Richard Rorty; drummer and jazz composer Max Roach; statistician Persi Diaconis; literary critic Harold Bloom; and composer John Zorn. Basically, it’s a hell of a fantasy dinner-party guest list.

One of this year’s MacArthur geniuses is a lawyer. Who is it?

Congratulations to Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney. Stock holds (not two but) three Harvard degrees — including ones from Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government — as well as a Masters of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. She is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Military Police, U.S. Army Reserve. She also has taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Alaska.

Stock’s work in immigration law addresses the nexus between that field and national security and military issues. Instead of simply focusing on using immigration policy as a tool for keeping out of the country those who might do the U.S. harm, she attempts to use law to bring in more of those non-citizens who might do the U.S. good.

For example, Stock was crucial to the creation of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (“MAVNI”) Program. MAVNI authorizes the military services to “recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest. Those holding critical skills – physicians, nurses, and certain experts in language with associated cultural backgrounds – would be eligible.” The MAVNI program allows foreign nationals who join the military to apply for naturalization without first having to obtain permanent resident status, eliminating the green card period from the nationalization process.

Stock also spearheaded the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Military Assistance Program (“MAP”). MAP is “a collaborative effort between the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Legal Assistance Offices of the United States military Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The LAOs provide free assistance to active duty service-members and their families in order to maintain the highest level of readiness possible in the event that a military member is deployed. Recently, however, JAG attorneys have been inundated with complex immigration legal questions. To resolve these cases successfully, they often need the assistance of seasoned immigration attorneys.”

Stock is also a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies. You can listen to Stock discuss the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act of 2013 in a recent Fed Soc podcast.

While I personally love the sight of former SCOTUS clerks stubbornly quasi-filibustering on the Senate floor, the legal profession’s best and brightest are not always engaged in such Broadway-style theatrics, nor are they always found in firms in New York or D.C. While their work might not always make headlines, it sometimes can be innovative and important enough to win a MacArthur Genius Grant.

Congrats again to fellowship winner Margaret Stock. Margaret, you are hereby welcome to attend any of my dinner parties.


Tamara Tabo is a summa cum laude graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the school’s law review. After graduation, she clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She will be working at the Center for Legal Pedagogy at Texas Southern University during the 2013-2014 academic year. She looks forward to a career of teaching and writing about, but never practicing, law. You can reach her at [email protected]


comments sponsored by

16 comments (hidden for your protection) Show all comments