Alumni Short

Babcock and Margulies Bring Their Focus on International Justice to Cornell Law

Ithaca, NEW YORK, September 27, 2013

Partway through careers that have taken them to Brazil, Iraq, Liberia, Malawi, Mexico, South Africa, and Guantánamo Bay, Sandra L. Babcock and Joseph Margulies have accepted offers to join the faculty at Cornell Law, beginning in the 2014-15 academic year. “Sandra is one of the leading clinical professors in the United States, and a passionate teacher and scholar who has done amazing work around the world,” says Stewart J. Schwab, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. “Joe is a great lawyer and public intellectual, whose Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power won the ABA’s prestigious Silver Gavel Award for promoting the public’s understanding of the American legal system. Together, they bring great energy and vision to the Law School.”

Babcock, a clinical professor and director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law, concentrates her practice on international human rights, access to justice around the world, and the application of international law in U.S. courts. In recent years, she and her students have represented Mexican nationals on death row in the United States, investigated cases of Malawians caught up in their country’s judicial system, and litigated before international tribunals, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. At Cornell, she plans to work in the International Human Rights Clinic and the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice.

“It’s been incredibly powerful for students to realize they have the ability to navigate a foreign legal system and affect someone’s life halfway around the world,” says Babcock, talking about her ongoing work in Malawi, which she expects to continue at Cornell. “Over the past six years, students have contributed to the release of fifty prisoners who otherwise would have had no access to lawyers. Students routinely say it’s the most transformative experience they’ve had in law school.”

Margulies, who will have a joint appointment in the Law School and the Government Department, has been an attorney and assistant director at Northwestern Law’s Roderick MacArthur Justice Center since 2004, following a stint as a distinguished practitioner in residence at Cornell Law in 2002.  For the past twelve years, Margulies has been at the forefront of the effort to prevent abuses in the post-9/11 era.  He was lead counsel in Rasul v. Bush (2004),which established the right of U.S. courts to determine the legality of imprisoning foreign nationals at Guantánamo, and Munaf v. Geren (2008), which established federal court jurisdiction over Americans imprisoned by the United States overseas. He is now counsel of record for Abu Zubaydah, whose 2002 interrogation lead to the Bush Administration’s “torture memos.” Margulies’s What Changed When Everything Changed: 9/11 and the Making of National Identity was published this spring by Yale University Press, and his essay “The Promise of May, the Betrayal of June, and the Larger Lesson of Manning and Snowden” appeared on the website Verdict this summer. Margulies is a 1982 graduate of Cornell University.

“At Northwestern, I developed a mix of teaching, writing, and litigating in national security and criminal justice reform, and I’m looking forward to continuing that at Cornell,” says Margulies, who is currently envisioning a book-length project on the rule of law as a symbol in American life. “I’ll be teaching one class a year in the Law School, either in civil rights or criminal justice, but I also plan to make myself available as a mentor to students who are interested in national security and criminal law, and in the law as an instrument of progressive social change. I’m also very excited about contributing to the life of the community, whether that means working with students or collaborating with colleagues. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Babcock and Margulies expect to arrive in Ithaca during the summer of 2014.

--Kenneth Berkowitz