The Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies
When Jacob Burns, the much loved and dedicated chairman of Cardozo's Board of Directors, retired the post after many years of service, one gift he received in recognition was unique and extremely personal. It was a leather-bound set of essays -- more than 1,000 pages -- all produced under the auspices of the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies.
The Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies is an important aspect of life at Cardozo and is little understood in terms of its origins, its aspirations, its major accomplishments, and its links to the extraordinary philanthropist who made it happen. Mr. Burns was a member of Cardozo's Board of Directors from the day of its founding and chairman from 1986 to 1992. Early on he created the Jacob Burns Scholars Program, designed to attract promising students to the Law School, and gave funds for the Jacob Burns Medal to recognize the achievements of the Law School's best students. In 1987, he wanted to undertake something beyond his previous efforts -- something that would strengthen the institution and give it more national weight. That project became the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, which he called "the centerpiece of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law." Mr. Burns wrote of the eponymous Institute, "It will be a principal method of encouraging the research and scholarly mission of the Law School and assisting in obtaining national recognition for the institution."
The challenge for Cardozo in the 1980s was to develop a signature for the newly founded Law School. At the time, there was an effort among the faculty to try to determine how important ideas in philosophy would affect the legal system, notes Prof. Monroe Price, who served as dean when Jacob Burns was chairman of the Cardozo Board. A large number of permanent and visiting faculty members were dedicated Hegelian scholars, writes Prof. David Gray Carlson in a 1993 paper on the Institute published in Cardozo Law Review. They included Drucilla Cornell, Arthur Jacobson, Michel Rosenfeld, and Peter Tillers. So Carlson raised the idea of organizing a symposium on Hegel and legal theory, and the aforementioned scholars concurred. "Because of the tremendous success of the symposium, Mr. Burns elected to establish the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies," Carlson continues.
Three people developed the idea for the Institute: Professor Price, former Yeshiva University Vice President for Academic Affairs Egon Brenner, and Mr. Burns, who funded it with an endowment grant from the Jacob Burns Foundation. The faculty has continued to define the Institute over the years through its individual interests and the symposia that blossom from those interests, but its main focus is on legal theory and on supporting scholarship at its highest level.
Jacob Burns lived to see much of the fruits of his work with Cardozo: international symposia that helped put the Law School on the world map; important scholars such as Jacques Derrida and Niklas Luhmann visiting Cardozo; and published symposia proceedings in Cardozo Law Review. "These were instrumental contributions by the Jacob Burns Foundation in the work of this Law School, making us what we are today in terms of being an international presence in the field of legal thought," says Richard Weisberg, Walter Floersheimer Professor of Constitutional Law. "Everything that Jack Burns did was vital to the growth of the Law School. The Institute was the crown jewel."
The Institute, in fact, is novel in several ways. It is not l 1000 imited to any particular viewpoint or discipline and generously embraces a broad definition of legal theory, giving quite a broad range of alternatives, explains Prof. Stewart Sterk, who currently chairs the committee that oversees the Institute's finances. For example, this spring the Institute sponsored a workshop on music and legal theory and a symposium on the nondelegation doctrine that focused on the extent to which Congress may delegate lawmaking responsibility to administrative agencies.
"It really enables us to highlight major areas in legal theory across the spectrum, depending on the interests of individual members of the Cardozo community," Professor Sterk explains.
"The Institute has made the Law School a recognized intellectual center and leader in legal theory largely by bringing here an amazing array of very famous scholars," says Professor Carlson.
"One of the things that makes a great law school is a law review that is read and respected by scholars around the country," Professor Price notes. "The focus of the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies and the conferences it has held meant that for the last 10 years or so Cardozo Law Review has been home for many distinguished symposia and articles by great scholars."
This year, "The Holocaust: Moral and Legal Issues Unresolved, 50 Years Later" was sponsored by the Institute in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress. The proceedings are to be published in Cardozo Law Review. Organized by Prof. Malvina Halberstam and Israel Singer, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, the conference featured distinguished participants who are involved on the front lines with issues that have made international news: confiscated Jewish property, Swiss bank accounts, the future of Auschwitz, and the role of so-called neutral states. These and other topics were discussed by academics, clerics, and government officials from Europe, Israel, South America, and the US. The international news media covered the conference, and organizations and government agencies have requested individual papers as well as copies of the published proceedings.
The smaller interdisciplinary workshop, "Modes of Law: Music and Legal Theory," cosponsored by the Institute and the New School's Mannes College of Music in April, brought together music scholars and legal scholars from the US, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These proceedings, too, will be published in an issue of Cardozo Law Review, and possibly in a book.
Symposium topics from previous years cover an equally broad spectrum: "The Legal Theory of Jürgen Habermas," a symposium that was published in 1994, appeared simultaneously with the publication of the English translation of Habermas's book on law; the 1995 "Bondage, Freedom and the Constitution: The New Slavery Scholarship and Its Impact on Law and Legal Historiography" was published in two volumes of Cardozo Law Review, and "Justices at Work: An International Exchange" was also held in 1995 and published subsequently.
The Institute is known to break ground on significant issues. "If you look at the speakers and the variety of issues featured in the Law and Humanism Speaker Series, you'll see that we're very much at the cutting edge," Professor Sterk says. Recent speakers have included: J.H. Baker, professor of English legal history at Cambridge University; political science professor Shlomo Avineri of The Hebrew University; Justice Noelle Lenoir of the French Constitutional Court; Prof. Nicholas Lühmann of Brelefeld University in Germany; and Stanley Fish, professor of English and law at Duke University.
The Institute also supports Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, the first professionally edited journal created to address the growing interest among storytellers, literary scholars, lawyers, and judges in the relationship between law and literature. CSLL, published semiannually, is in its tenth year and explores legal themes in fiction, ranging 1000 from the classics to contemporary literature. Topics have included: censorship; narrative, hermeneutics, and style; human rights in literature; judicial biography; and new works by celebrated as well as emerging authors whose interests include a vision of law and society. CSLL has published works by such playwrights as Barrie Stavis and Benjamin Fondane, as well as numerous essays. "Jacob Burns Foundation grants were essential in getting CSLL launched and in supporting us over the years," says Professor Weisberg, general editor.
"One important aspect of the Institute is that it provides every member of the Cardozo faculty with the opportunity of financial support for projects that will advance legal knowledge," Professor Sterk explains.
"The Jacob Burns Institute has enabled me to organize three conferences here in the last 10 years," Carlson says. The first was "Hegel and Legal Theory"; the second was "Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice," in which Jacques Derrida presented a paper that was first published in Cardozo Law Review and has since become very well known; and the third was "Law and the Post- Modern Mind," on psychoanalytic theory.
The Institute generally looks to sponsor major events at Cardozo, or events that will be published in Cardozo Law Review. But there have been instances where it has helped individual faculty members with a project, Professor Sterk says. For instance, the Institute thought it was important to provide funds for the translation from English to French of Richard Weisberg's well-received and important book Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France.
As for future direction, the Jacob Burns Institute for Advanced Legal Studies is prepared to follow members of the Cardozo community as their interests and trends in legal scholarship and legal inquiry change, says Professor Sterk. "Whenever a scholar identifies an important area for study, we're willing to consider funding it."
Mr. Burns was extremely charitable; he also supported George Washington University Law School, his alma mater (1924), and contributed funds to establish the Jacob Burns Law Library at that institution. At Yeshiva University, Mr. Burns was a trustee and a founding director of the Sy Syms School of Business. "When it was brought to his attention that Cardozo was being established and needed support, my grandfather felt that he wished to focus his attention there because of his own background as a lawyer," says Barry Shenkman, president of the Jacob Burns Foundation and Mr. Burns's grandson.
Mr. Burns became a champion of Cardozo's unique curriculum, which blends practical experience and theory with a broad spectrum of innovative programs and courses. In a 1991 testimony to Jacob Burns, Yeshiva University President Norman Lamm wrote, "Carl Sandburg once described [Abraham] Lincoln as 'steel wrapped in velvet.' That is an apt characterization of Jack Burns. Soft-spoken, gentle, almost self-effacing in demeanor, he is hard-headed, clear-eyed, persistent, and powerful in the discharge of his responsibilities to Cardozo."
"My grandfather was a leader," Mr. Shenkman observes. "And he was very good at managing the Law School. He not only gave funds, but when he was chairman, he was on the phone for hours every day with the School, looking over its budget, taking an active role." He was very interested in seeing the Law School succeed and become prominent, says Mr. Shenkman. "He thought that these scholarly endeavors would help establish Cardozo, and he was right."
Jacob Burns (1902-1993)
Jacob Burns was a prominent New York attorney specializing in corporate law and estates and trusts. He was a philanthropist,
a painter, and a corporate leader. He was a founder and, for
several years, chairman of the board e95 of U.S. Vitamin and Pharmaceutical Corp., a public company that merged with Revlon, Inc. in 1966. Mr. Burns was a member of the Revlon board of directors from 1966 to 1985.
At Yeshiva University, Mr. Burns served on the Board of Trustees and was a founding director of the Sy Syms School of Business. He was a member of the Cardozo Board of Directors from 1976 until his death in 1993 and was chairman from 1986 to 1992. In 1984, Yeshiva conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
In 1970, Mr. Burns received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from George Washington University, from which he had graduated in 1924. He was a member of the Order of the Coif for more than six decades. At George Washington, he was a trustee for many years and a member of the board of directors of the George Washington Law Association, which presented him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1975. He also received the Alumni Achievement Award in 1983 from the university's General Alumni Association.
In the legal field, he was vice chairman of the Committee on Character and Fitness of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, first Judicial Department. For many years, he was a director of the New York County Lawyers' Association, which awarded him its Medal for Conspicuous Service. He was chairman of the Joint Coordinating Committee on Discipline of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and a member of the House of Delegates of the New York State Bar Association.
In addition to his involvement with Yeshiva and George Washington Universities, Mr. Burns was a philanthropic leader in a broad spectrum of institutions that promoted the advancement of learning and the arts, including the Metropolitan Opera Association, Thirteen -- WNET-TV, and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. The Jacob Burns Foundation, which he founded, continues his legacy.
Activities of the Burns Institute
"The Phoenix Rises Again: The Nondelegation Doctrine from Legal and Policy Perspectives," held in March under the auspices of the Jacob Burns Institute, brought to Cardozo distinguished political scientists and legal scholars who debated the rules against legislative delegation of lawmaking authority. (from left) Nadine Stroessen, Martin Redish, Justice Hans Linde, and Marci Hamilton.
Jacob Burns with Jacques Derrida. Monroe Price in center.
The Honorable Leon A. Higgenbotham was a featured speaker at "Bondage, Freedom, and the Constitution: The New Slavery Scholarship and Its Impact on Law and Legal Historiography."
"Justices at Work: An International Exchange" brought seven Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges to Cardozo in 1995. (from left) Dieter Grimm of Germany, Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US, and Yitzhak Zamir of Israel.
Jonathan Kalstrom is a writer who contributes frequently to law school magazines.0