Junior Faculty Members Work on the Cutting Edge
Brooklyn Law School also welcomed two new junior faculty members to its community in the fall — one who joined the Law School's well-known group of securities regulation experts; and another whose cutting-edge work focuses on the field of law and religion.
Professor James Park, who teaches civil procedure and corporations, built a successful career in both private practice and public service, but he fulfilled a longtime dream when he came to academia. "Teaching was always in the back of my mind," says Park, who earned his J.D. from Yale Law School and studied economics and philosophy as an undergraduate. "When you practice, you are focusing on one or two things right in front of you. But academic writing allows you to look more systematically at issues, which is a very valuable service."
Park most recently served as an assistant attorney general in the Investment Protection Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office under now Governor Eliot Spitzer, where he worked on important securities enforcement cases. His work there, along with his previous positions as a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and a law clerk for a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York and a Second Circuit judge, exposed him to "a variety of perspectives," he says.
Park's scholarship focuses on the issue of how to best communicate and enforce regulatory standards in the securities industry. "I wanted to make an immediate contribution by exploring how corporate resources are governed and how the markets work," he says. "In particular, I was interested in exploring how the law allows businesses to operate and prevents abuses at the same time." In his latest article, "The Competing Paradigms of Securities Regulation," forthcoming in the Duke Law Journal, Park tackles a difficult and timely issue that has not yet been squarely addressed: How should regulators handle questionable conduct that does not clearly violate specific rules of the securities industry but does tread on some of its general principles? In response to criticism of recent high-profile enforcement actions, Park's article argues that regulators should resolve the tension between two possible approaches — rulemaking after the fact or principles-based enforcement actions — by looking at a wide variety of factors and paying close attention to whether there is "compelling evidence of specific misconduct." In response to yet another hot topic in the securities industry, Park's next project will provide an innovative answer to the perennial problem of whether and how to classify a company's financial misstatements as "material," the standard by which misstatements are punishable.
In the classroom, Park is enjoying the challenge of teaching students how to think like lawyers. "Legal reasoning is very difficult to learn at first," he says. "But once you know it, it's like
riding a bike."
Professor Nelson Tebbe, who taught constitutional law and a seminar on religion and the law in the fall, says he loves teaching here. "Both students and colleagues have been wonderful," he says of his first semester at Brooklyn Law School.
With a special interest in the relationship between religious traditions and democratic forms of government, Tebbe, who also teaches professional responsibility, is carving out a fascinating niche in First Amendment scholarship. Focusing on the often dueling Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, he has, for instance, identified a new issue courts are facing under the current U.S. Supreme Court's reading of the clauses: whether the government may target religious entities for exclusion from federal and state support programs. In an article that will be published in 2008 in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, he argues that lawmakers ought to have greater leeway to exclude religious entities from such programs than some other scholarship might suggest, though he would place certain constitutional limits on the practice.
Tebbe has also written extensively on South Africa's young democracy and its struggle to respect indigenous African rules and religious traditions while protecting individual rights. A recent article in the Georgetown Law Journal addresses South Africa's attempt to regulate witchcraft-related activity, and his next project focuses on how the courts there are challenging African customary rules of inheritance.
"I became interested in South Africa before the transition from apartheid," Tebbe says. "And that interest has only grown more intense since. Because the idea of constitutional democracy has little in common with some traditions in the country, the clashes among principles can be stark." Long interested in religious freedom, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago's Divinity School after receiving his J.D. from Yale Law School. His dissertation addressed the regulation of African religion and culture by the new democracy.
Before joining the Brooklyn Law School faculty, Tebbe taught at St. John's University School of Law and in the Lawyering Program at New York University School of Law. He is the recipient of many awards in recognition of his scholarship and teaching, including a Dean's Teaching Award from St. John's and a Fulbright Scholarship to study in South Africa. He previously worked as a litigation associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell and as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's National Drug Policy Project. "I found my dream job teaching here," he says.