CIVIL PROCEDURE, the body of law that establishes the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits, may sound like a dry area of law at first blush, but Professor Robin Effron has a reputation for making it a lively and engaging topic for students, legal scholars, and the public.
Through her scholarship and teaching, Effron emphasizes the critical role of civil procedure law in maintaining access to justice. She points to the legal issues arising from last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas as a high-profile example. Seeking to protect itself from potential liability, MGM Resorts International took an aggressive and unusual legal approach in July by filing a lawsuit against victims of the attack. MGM’s move “was a total abuse of the legal system,” said Effron. “These are the kinds of cases that form the backbone of our ability to vindicate important public and private rights in court.”
Looking through the lens of civil procedure can shine a different light on even larger issues. In an op-ed published in the New York Law Journal about the possibility that Chief Justice John Roberts may now replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy as the centrist “swing vote” on the U.S. Supreme Court, Effron pointed to his voting record on cases involving legal process and civil procedure. “A series of carefully picked and well-timed decisions could allow the Court to significantly narrow Americans’ access to justice without ever mentioning a politically salient issue,” she wrote.
In her most recent article, “Ousted: The New Dynamics of Privatized Procedure and Judicial Discretion,” in the Boston University Law Review (2018), Effron explored questions about the power to author the rules governing dispute resolution and the relative powers of the players within that process. She examined the link between the scope of judicial discretion and the acceptance (or even endorsement and encouragement) of “private procedural ordering”—wherein litigants use increasingly sophisticated contractual agreements to alter or displace standard procedural rules. “Both litigants and judges struggle within this dynamic,” she wrote.
In addition to civil procedure, Effron teaches courses in litigation and business law and serves as codirector of the Dennis J. Block Center for the Study of International Business Law. She is an avid writer and presenter whose articles have appeared in top law reviews. She also serves as editor of the civil procedure and federal courts blog for the Law Professors Blog Network.