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Stars Shine on Miller

Laughter and smiles abound as current and former students, colleagues, and friends dedicate this year’s Annual Survey.

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A parade of luminaries from the worlds of law and media appeared at the April dedication to Arthur Miller of the 67th volume of the Annual Survey of American Law. Collectively, they paid tribute to him in his many incarnations: teacher, mentor, scholar, practitioner, TV personality, and friend. “Arthur Miller, like life, is best viewed not through a single window, but through the many facets of a diamond,” said NYU President John Sexton. “This special man has many sides to him.”

Miller, who joined NYU Law in 2007 as a University Professor after 35 years at Harvard Law School, is a singular figure in American law and culture. Both in and out of the classroom—clad in his trademark three-piece suit and red tie and pocket square—he presents a carefully crafted persona, fearsome and imperious. But as those offering accolades made clear, this is a front, behind which is a person capable of touching people deeply and offering them life-changing inspiration. “Everyone who has taken one of Professor Miller’s classes remembers the experience,” said Danielle Kantor ’10, the Annual Survey’s editor in chief.

Arthur R. Miller and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who flew in from Washington just to speak at the dedication ceremony, offered personal observations dating to 1957, when she and Miller were both law students at Harvard. Back then, she noted, “he was a wee bit shy, would you believe?” Years later, she recounted, her daughter’s decision to take Miller’s copyright law class at Harvard “determined her life’s work.” (Jane Ginsburg now teaches intellectual property at Columbia Law School.) Ginsburg also read a statement from her fellow justice Stephen Breyer, who said Miller “has helped thousands of law students understand the intrinsic interest in, as well as the human importance of, the law.” Another jurist, Robert Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, praised Miller’s work in privacy law.

The field of civil procedure connected many of the ceremony’s speakers to Miller, co-author of the 31-volume Federal Practice and Procedure. It was because he took Miller’s civil procedure class, Sexton said, that he went on to teach the subject. (In addition to serving as NYU’s president, Sexton is the Benjamin F. Butler Professor of Law at the Law School.) Two other distinguished civil proceduralists took to the podium to honor their longtime colleague. “Though I was technically his senior, he was always my mentor,” said David Shapiro, a visiting professor at NYU Law and colleague from Harvard Law School. And Martin Lipton Professor of Law Linda Silberman, who was Miller’s student and summer research assistant at Michigan Law School, noted that she “learned more in that summer than I did in the rest of my law school years.”

But Miller’s star power has extended far beyond the walls of academia. Most notably, he hosted his own TV shows on the law, Miller’s Court and Miller’s Law, and served as a legal commentator on many others, including ABC TV’s Good Morning America. Indeed, Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst for CNN Worldwide and the New Yorker, credited Miller with pioneering TV coverage of the courts. “Arthur was the first person—the very first person—to recognize that law could make compelling television,” Toobin said. Longtime Good Morning America anchor Charles Gibson said, “In my 33 years at ABC, I can count on one hand those academics who could make their subjects come alive for a mass audience. There’s no better teacher than Arthur Miller.”

Lawyers who have practiced with Miller praised his wide-ranging expertise—Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner Henry Gutman for Miller’s work on copyright cases; Brad Friedman, a partner at the Milberg law firm (where Miller is now special counsel) for his guidance in class action litigation.

When it came time for Miller himself to speak a few words at the close of the dedication ceremony, he confessed that he was “filled with all sorts of emotions.” He offered: “I’m honored, I’m humbled. I might say I’m speechless—but nobody would believe that.”

Read Professor Miller’s profile.

Read about Professor Miller’s collection of Japanese prints.

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