Twenty years ago, the Law School magazine made its debut with a cover celebrating 100 years of women at NYU Law. So I am particularly proud to have Sheila Birnbaum ’65 profiled in this issue’s cover feature. Her story of defying society’s narrow expectations for women in the ’60s to become one of the most accomplished and respected corporate lawyers in the nation is inspiring. Just days before we photographed her, Sheila was appointed special master of the $2.8 billion September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
It is a testament to her prodigious talents and expertise that the Justice Department has entrusted Sheila to recompense the rescue workers and New York City residents who are still ailing a decade after the attacks.
An active alumna who endowed a faculty chair two years ago, Sheila was once a tenured professor at NYU Law as well as an associate dean. She taught torts, the subject of our academic feature. As many readers know, in each year’s magazine since I became dean in 2002, we have focused on an area of law in which I am confident a peer review would say we take the lead among top law schools. Past issues have highlighted our programs in international, environmental, criminal, and clinical law; legal philosophy; civil procedure; and administrative law and regulatory policy, as well as the new areas of law and democracy and law and security. Torts has become a hotly contested area of law over two issues: whether federal health and safety standards block private litigation, and just how large punitive damage awards should be. “The System Everyone Loves to Hate” features professors Jennifer Arlen, Richard Epstein, Mark Geistfeld, Catherine Sharkey, and others whose work will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on law and society.
As dean, one of my priorities is to build a stronger bridge between our students and the federal government. In “Washington at Washington Square,” we highlight leading public figures in federal government who are or have recently been teaching on our campus. The roster includes the White House counsels of presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as appellate judges appointed by presidents Carter and Reagan, policy experts, and administrators representing a broad political spectrum. I am proud to let you know that one, Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, will be one among the outstanding professors to join our full-time faculty this academic year. We introduce this impressive group in the Faculty Focus section.
The depth and talent of our faculty and alumni in multidisciplinary fields are also on display in our annual roundtable discussion, “The End of Secrets.” This March the magazine invited nine alumni and NYU faculty—including a former director of intelligence analysis for the NYPD, two former ACLU counsel on the Pentagon Papers case, a physicist, and a lawyer involved in the investigation of the leak that exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity—to take part in the conversation. The participants analyzed what the advent of WikiLeaks might mean for First Amendment rights, national security, Internet law, and the press itself. It makes for thought-provoking and fascinating reading.
We began the year with a ribbon-cutting for Wilf Hall, our state-of-the-art new home for academic centers generously supported by trustees Leonard Wilf (LL.M. ’77) and Mark Wilf ’87.
Sadly, we close the issue having suffered more than our share of losses. In Faculty Focus and Alumni Almanac we remember Dean Emeritus Norman Redlich (LL.M. ’55), Gerald L. Wallace Professor of Taxation Emeritus James Eustice (LL.M. ’58, Professor Emeritus Howard Greenberger ’54 Assistant Professor Sarah Woo, civil rights attorney Charles Conley ’55 and U.N. human rights worker Joakim Dungel (LL.M. ’07). Among them are legal legends who committed half-centuries to their fields, and, tragically, young lives of great promise cut short. As we remember them and honor all they accomplished or set out to do, we redouble our own efforts to make a difference.