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Current Issue : Winter 2007-2008

Engaging with Excellence

At the heart of any great law school are stellar teachers and scholars who readily share their ideas and experiences with students. In the fall, Brooklyn Law School welcomed eight new additions to its extraordinarily talented faculty. Ranging from established authorities to promising young scholars, they bring to the classroom a depth of experience in the areas of torts, family law, securities law, constitutional law, legal writing, and professional development.

Senior Faculty Members Focus on Torts

Aaron Twersky
Aaron Twerski

Aaron Twerski, the Irwin and Jill Cohen Professor of Law, is a preeminent authority in the areas of products liability and tort law, with many awards, honors and casebooks to his name, but he is "first and foremost a teacher," he says. "Almost all of my scholarship has come out of my teaching. I can't teach it if I don't understand it." He delights in hosting brown-bag lunches in his office for his students, who he says make up "the strongest class I've ever taught here." Twerski, who began teaching at Brooklyn Law School in 1986, returned to the School in the fall semester after serving as dean of Hofstra University School of Law.

A staunch advocate of the idea that academics should learn to produce scholarship that helps lawyers and judges better understand the law, Twerski welcomes new trends in the law such as interdisciplinary scholarship and empirical research. But he warned in a recent editorial in The National Law Journal that "the idea that the legal academy is a closed club that speaks only to each other and not to the bench and bar is decidedly not healthy." He says his goal is to improve the law, make it clearer and more predictable, adding, "The abandonment of doctrinal scholarship is a mistake, because courts need the guidance of academia."

Twerski has produced an impressive array of scholarship read widely by judges and practitioners alike. He is the author of leading textbooks and numerous law review articles, two of which were cited recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York. Twerski was the eighth most cited law professor in the area of torts and products liability in scholarly articles published from 2000 to 2007, according to the influential Leiter Report. Along with co-author Cornell University Law School Professor James Henderson, Jr., he recently submitted manuscripts for new editions of two widely used casebooks: Cases and Materials on the Law of Torts (Aspen 2nd ed.), forthcoming in February 2008; and Products Liability: Problems and Process (Aspen 6th ed.), forthcoming in March 2008.

Twerski was named the R. Ammi Cutter Reporter for his outstanding work as co-reporter for the American Law Institute's 1998 Restatement of the Law (Third) Torts: Products Liability, which widely influenced the development of the law in this area. He is currently planning a symposium in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Restatement, to be held at Brooklyn Law School in November 2008. Looking forward to a lively debate among academics, judges and the trial bar, who often have very different opinions on the Restatement, Twerski's eyes sparkle: "At the symposium, we'll go at it," he predicts.

Twerski's preeminence in the field was tapped again last year, when he was appointed, along with Henderson, as special master of a major 9/11 case against New York City known as In re World Trade Center Disaster Litigation. They will oversee an extensive discovery process and the appointment of expert panels to review the medical aspects of this mass tort case, which will be heard in federal court in the Eastern District of New York.

The American Bar Association's Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section in August 2007 honored Twerski with the prestigious Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award, in recognition of his commitment to the advancement of justice, scholarship and the legal profession in the fields of tort and insurance law. In his address to the ABA (see page 46) at the award presentation, Twerski said he felt "a sense of awe" because, as he explained, "The scholars who preceded me in this award shaped the discourse in tort law for the last half-century."

Anita Bernstein
Anita Bernstein

"Aaron Twerski was one reason I wanted to come here," says Anita Bernstein, the Anita and Stuart Subotnick Professor of Law. Like Twerski, she is a nationally recognized expert in tort law. Bernstein held tenure simultaneously on two law faculties — an endowed chair at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta and a named professorship at New York Law School — prior to joining Brooklyn Law School. With a focus on feminist jurisprudence, professional responsibility, and products liability, she is a prolific author whose works include books such as Marriage Proposals: Questioning a Legal Status (ed., New York University Press 2006), and Torts: Questions & Answers (Lexis Publishing 2004) (with D. Leonard).

Bernstein is a member of the American Law Institute, where she serves on the members consultative group for the Restatement of Torts. She is also a past chair of the Association of American Law Schools' Executive Committee on Torts and Compensation Systems. She was awarded the first Fulbright research award in European Union affairs given to a law professor to study the effects of products liability reform in the EU. A graduate of Yale Law School, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York and practiced at Debevoise & Plimpton before entering academia.

Bernstein says her early interest in literature — specifically 19th century novels — likely gave rise to her attraction to studying "conflicts between people at the private level" rather than between people and governments. "I'm interested in private lives as the law changes and shapes them, and also in the converse — how private lives change the law," Bernstein explains. She also focuses on plaintiffs' claims against other private actors for physical and dignitary injuries, the agreements that come along with marriage, and ordinary citizens' complaints in general. Her recent publications and presentations cover topics such as how personal injury suits can increase the efficacy of pharmaceuticals, and the intersection of lawyers' professional responsibility with other fields, including torts and disability law. An article in the works will present a feminist analysis of asbestos litigation. "Men have been favored as plaintiffs in the asbestos cases in ways that plaintiffs in other tort cases have not," she says. "Courts seem more inclined to grant relief to these men for things like fear of cancer and medical monitoring. And asbestos plaintiffs do extra well on questions of procedure."

Bernstein plans to spend more time in the future focused on researching and writing about professional responsibility, taking particular interest in the overlap between legal ethics and tort litigation. She hopes to use her own materials for her professional responsibility course in the spring. "We'll see if there's a casebook growing in there," she says.

"Almost all of my scholarship has come out of my teaching. I can't teach it if I don't understand it."
—Aaron Twerski
"I'm interested in private lives as the law changes and shapes them, and also in the converse—how private lives change the law."
—Anita Bernstein