Christina Duffy Burnett Joins CLS Faculty


Christina Duffy Burnett,
who specializes in legal history, has joined the faculty of Columbia Law School, effective July 1. Prof. Burnett, who will be in residence during the 2007-08 year, will begin teaching in fall 2008 in her areas of expertise, including legal history, constitutional law, and the federal courts.
 
Prof. Burnett’s current scholarship examines the constitutional and international legal history of American empire, a topic that sheds light on issues of fundamental importance in the American polity, such as federalism, citizenship, and nationhood. The U.S. territories – Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa – are subject to U.S. sovereignty and federal law, and the four million people who live there are U.S. citizens. Yet the territories have a constitutional status different from – and subordinate to – that of the states. This unique status gives rise to important questions: Why do so many people living in the 50 states think of their fellow U.S. citizens as not quite American? What does that tell us about what it means to be an American? Is it correct to say that our federalist system consists of a union of equal states?
           
Prof. Burnett has spent the past year at Princeton University working on her doctorate, a history of American expansion in transnational perspective. The previous year, she served as a clerk for Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court and, during 2000-01, as a clerk for Judge José A. Cabranes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
           
Prof. Burnett received a M. Phil. in political thought and intellectual history from Cambridge University and her B.A. in history and Latin American studies from Princeton. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1998, she was a Visiting Scholar in the Program in Law & Public Affairs at Princeton, where she worked on the history of the federal court in Puerto Rico and on the relationship between secession and empire.
           
Prof. Burnett’s writings include: “Untied States: American Expansion and Territorial Deannexation,” which offers a revisionist interpretation of the Insular Cases, a series of early- 20th-century U.S. Supreme Court decisions best known for holding that the Constitution did not “follow the flag” to the territories annexed by the United States in 1898 after the Spanish-American War; “The Edges of Empire and the Limits of Sovereignty: American Guano Islands;” and “The Constitution and Deconstitution of the United States.” These writings appeared in (respectively) University of Chicago Law Review, American Quarterly, and as a chapter in The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion (Rowman & Littlefield). She is also the co-editor (with Burke Marshall) of a collection of essays entitled Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion, and the Constitution, published by Duke University Press.