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Paris Center Background

Behind the Scenes of a Goodwill Partnership Between the Cornell Law School and the Cour de cassation in Paris

When French justices at the Cour de cassation in Paris expressed a strong need to establish a library of American federal and state law jurisprudence in hardbound copy they were thinking along the lines of a purchase. Their sentiments were expressed to Cornell Law School Dean Stewart Schwab through Sir Basil Markesinis, a leading legal scholar at University College London and the University of Texas at Austin, who has taught at Cornell Law School and remains one of the Cornell law school’s many French connections. Markesinis, who served as scientific advisor to Guy Canivet, the president of Cour de cassation until February 2007, was instrumental in bringing the Cornell law school into the picture.

Enter Claire M. Germain, Edward Cornell Law Librarian and Professor of Law and director of the Law School’s dual degree programs in Paris and Berlin. When Germain heard about the need for books, her natural instincts as a law librarian were piqued. She suggested to Dean Schwab that they make a gift of the thousands of duplicate case decisions, law reviews, and other materials that would not only be of use to the court but also benefit participants in the Cornell in Paris Program.

“In the U.S., which is dominated by electronic access, second copies are less often used,” said Germain. “However, in Europe these paper-based materials are highly valued and electronic access considerably limited. All parties would benefit from such an initiative. In addition, there would be desired space saving at the law school itself.”

The practical yet imaginative suggestion was greeted warmly by the judges of the Cour de cassation – the highest court in the French judiciary – and a deal was struck late this past winter. Not only would Cornell supply the books, but pay for the shipping costs. In return the French judiciary would establish the Cornell Center for Documentation on American Law within the historic court in the Palais de Justice and 13,000 Cornell law books will be centrally located with a conspicuous plaque describing their origin.

In addition, the Cornell law library will offer special electronic legal research training and instruction to French legal scholars and judges. The Cour de cassation’s library, normally not open to the public, will in turn allow Cornell students and scholars studying in Paris access to their own materials.

“The Cornell Center will have great practical and symbolic importance,” said Stewart J. Schwab, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. "We are proud to be able to enhance the dialogue between our two countries."

The new partnership supplements the Cornell Law School’s current relationships in France, including its 14-year joint venture with the University of Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), the Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law in Paris, and a four-year American/French law degree program: the J.D./Master en Droit.