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Crossing Borders With Maggie Gardner, Law School's Newest Professor

As headlines shout about rising nationalism, Maggie Gardner is teaching students how to look across borders. An expert in transnational litigation and civil procedure, Gardner will be arriving in Ithaca this fall as Cornell Law School’s newest Assistant Professor of Law.

Assistant Professor of Law, Maggie Gardner

Assistant Professor of Law, Maggie Gardner

“We’re going to have this opportunity, not to overstate things, to be in the vanguard of asking what procedure in a modern globalized economy looks like,” Gardner says.

“The Supreme Court just keeps grappling with these questions: what do we do when we have foreigners involved in these run-of-the-mill cases? These are questions that are going to be very practical and very important in the coming years.”

Gardner will be bolstering an already vibrant core of scholars at Cornell working on similar issues, including Barbara J. Holden-Smith, Vice Dean and Professor of Law; Kevin Clermont, the Robert D. Ziff Professor of Law; and Zachary Clopton, Assistant Professor of Law. Gardner and Clopton are already seasoned collaborators, having just filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court inĀ Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court.

Gardner’s recent scholarship argues that U.S. judges aren’t as parochial as is often assumed when addressing cases involving foreign parties; rather, they don’t have appropriate decision-making rules that would allow them to better handle cross-border cases. “In addition to being smart and perceptive, she is very much a student of actual litigation and actual cases, and so in particular her writing about international litigation is not just idle speculation,” says Clopton. “It’s a very good account about what’s actually going on out in the real world.”

Gardner will be coming to Ithaca from Harvard Law School, where she is currently the Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law. A winner of one of Harvard’s inaugural Student Government Teaching & Advising awards, she puts great value on actively engaging students and hearing from everyone in the classroom.

Building mentoring relationships with students is another priority. “In many ways, the law school process can be very disorienting and distracting for students, and I care deeply about helping students hold onto the reason they came to law school,” says Gardner. “That’s one thing that’s drawn me to Cornell: the sense that the student body and the school fosters a culture of attention to personal missions, to having a sense of purpose beyond grades and achievements.

Before arriving in academia, Gardner spent time in private practice working on cross-border issues, before a desire to work in an international setting landed her in a fellowship in the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. At the tribunal, which was set up at the The Hague to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the intricacies of applying Lebanese law in an international setting primed Gardner for a career of exploring how procedure can help smooth the inevitable friction that arises when domestic law crosses borders.

“What I’m really hoping to get through to students, even in a standard civil procedure course, is the relevance of cross-border issues, which will just come up in anyone’s practice, especially in a Cornell Law student’s practice,” Gardner says. “In whatever capacity they go off to work in, there are going to be times when they have an issue that crosses a border. So, what do you do, and how do you think about these issues?”


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