Patrick McKinley Brennan

Professor of Law
John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies


Patrick McKinley Brennan came to Villanova in 2004 as the inaugural holder of the John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies. Previously, he was professor of law and vice dean at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, where he taught for eight years.   

Brennan has published five books: Christian Legal Thought: Materials and Cases (Foundation Press, 2017) (with Brewbaker), By Nature Equal: The Anatomy of a Western Insight (Princeton University Press, 1999) (with Coons); Civilizing Authority: Society, State, and Church (Lexington, 2007); The Vocation of the Child (Eerdmans, 2008); Legal Affinities: Explorations in the Legal Form of Thought (Carolina Academic Press, 2014) (with Powell and Sammons).

Brennan has published more than seventy articles, essays, and book chapters, of which some have appeared in Michigan Law ReviewUniversity of Pennsylvania Law ReviewBoston College Law ReviewNotre Dame Law ReviewEmory Law JournalReview of MetaphysicsJournal of Law and Religion and American Journal of Jurisprudence.

Brennan has regularly taught constitutional law, administrative law, federal courts, criminal law, and a wide range of courses in jurisprudence, law and religion, Christian legal thought and political theory. 

At Villanova, Brennan organizes the John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics and Culture. The conference brings distinguished scholars and leaders in the Catholic tradition into conversation with speakers from a wide range of disciplines and traditions on topics of interest and import. Speakers at the annual conference have included Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge John T. Noonan Jr., Martha Nussbaum, Joseph Vining, Jeremy Waldron, Geoff Stone, Jesse Choper, Lee Bollinger, Roderick Hills, Jane Schacter, Paul Kahn, Kristin Hickman, John Manning, Gillian Metzger, Adrian Vermeule, H. Jefferson Powell, Henry Paul Monaghan, Amy Uelmen, Marya Schectman, James Gordley, Harry Brighouse, Richard Garnett, Kathryn Tanner, Kent Greenawalt, John Ferejohn, William Eskridge, John Finnis, Peter Steinfels, Bryan Hehir, Nomi Stolzenberg, Suzanne Last Stone, Abner Greene, Susanna Blumenthal, James Bernard Murphy, and Candace Vogler. Among the ecclesiastical dignitaries who have spoken at the conference are William Cardinal Levada, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap. 

In 2014, Brennan was awarded the degree D. Litt. (honoris causa) by the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (Berkeley), where he serves as a fellow. Brennan also serves as an elected member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Jurisprudence and has also served as an elected member of the executive council of the American Catholic Philosophical Association.

Following law school, Brennan clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan Jr., on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, and later was associated with major law firms in San Francisco and Washington, DC. He is a native of California.

Practice Experience

  • Professor of Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
  • Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Research, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
  • Vice Dean, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
  • Judicial Clerk for Honorable John T. Noonan, Jr., on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.

Office: Rm 224, John F. Scarpa
Phone: 610-519-7073
Fax: 610-519-6837


Courses and Seminars

  • Administrative Law
  • Christian Legal Thought
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Jurisprudence
  • Justice and Rights
  • Law, Politics, and Human Nature: The Teachings of Modern Christianity


  • Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall), U.C. Berkeley, JD
  • University of Toronto, MA
  • Yale College, BA in philosophy with honors and distinction