Credit: Roy Groething
Professors Claire Moore Dickerson and
Saul Mendlovitz developed the Global
Legal Studies program at the School of
Law-Newark three years ago to take
advantage of a cadre of law faculty
members interested in international
issues. The 15 faculty members teach
immigration law, international business
and environmental law, and legal
controls on weapons of mass destruction.
It’s a law program that accommodates future moguls dreaming of a career in global business transactions along with idealists who want to save the world – or at least pockets of it – from violence, poverty, environmental ruin and injustice.
The Global Legal Studies (GLS) program at the Rutgers School of Law-Newark offers courses on Islamic jurisprudence and protection of human rights, as well as international tax law. Founded in 2003 by its current co-directors, professors Saul Mendlovitz and Claire Moore Dickerson, the program strives for a blend of public- and private-focused scholarship and clinical training.
“This is truly a big tent,” said Dickerson, professor of law and Arthur L. Dickson Scholar. “If someone comes in and is interested only in becoming the best darned international private commercial lawyer they can be, that’s completely within this big tent. What’s different is that we recognize and stress the importance of social responsibility in the international arena.”
It’s a combination that sets Rutgers’ program apart, said Mendlovitz, Dag Hammarskjold Professor of Peace and World Order Studies Emeritus. “I call it ‘enriched eclecticism.’ ”
Dickerson and Mendlovitz developed the program three years ago to take advantage of a strong field of Rutgers-Newark law faculty members who were interested in international issues. A $20,000 2003-04 Academic Excellence Award provided seed money.
The 15 faculty members now affiliated with GLS teach courses that cover such topics as international environmental law, immigration law, international business transactions and legal controls on weapons of mass destruction. The program organizes workshops and conferences on international law topics and works closely with the Rutgers Division of Global Affairs so that students can take advantage of each other’s offerings. (The Division of Global Affairs, formerly the Center for Global Change and Governance, administers master’s and doctoral programs in global affairs.) Faculty members serve on boards or consult with the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and nongovernmental organizations. Many have backgrounds in international litigation and commercial transactions.
Karima Bennoune, associate professor of law, recently spent two weeks in Afghanistan observing human rights organizations there in her position as a board member of Amnesty International. Mark Weiner, an associate professor who recently won a Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, researches legal and cultural issues in Germany and Argentina. Associate Professor Sabrina Safrin, formerly a State Department legal adviser, received the 2005 Francis Deak Prize from the American Society of International Law for her research into how scientific advances challenge the international legal system. A clinical professor, Penny Venetis, won a landmark federal ruling in 2004 that helps protect detained political asylum seekers from abuse.
The program’s co-directors mirror the wide-ranging interests of the faculty. Mendlovitz is a founding member of Global Action to Prevent War, a coalition of organizations and activists from around the world that is working on a decades-long project to make armed conflict rare and brief. Before coming to Rutgers, Dickerson was a partner in the international law firm Coudert Brothers, specializing in international commercial transactions, and is studying business laws in West and Central Africa.
In an increasingly interconnected world, Rutgers-Newark’s GLS program has become a lure for prospective law students, said Fran Bouchoux, associate dean for admissions and career services. When Bouchoux is on recruiting trips at forums and campuses across the country, international law is the area most asked about, she said.
“This is a generation of young people who have grown up on the concept of a global economy and a global society, so international law is a natural focus for them,” Bouchoux said. An equal number express interest in the international private sector as in Peace Corps-type work and international human rights, she said.