CLS Hires New Faculty

Christina Duffy Burnett

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.

Nathaniel Persily

Nathaniel Persily, a nationally recognized expert on election law and a frequent practitioner and media commentator in the area, will join the Columbia Law School faculty on July 1. Prof. Persily comes from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where in 2005 he won the Robert A. Gorman Teaching Award, which is based on student evaluations. He also held a second appointment in the university’s political science department.
Prof. Persily’s scholarship focuses on American election law or what is sometimes called the "law of democracy," which addresses issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance, and redistricting. In the last area, his outside activities include service as a court-appointed expert to draw up legislative districting plans for Georgia, Maryland, and New York. He also has served the California State Senate as an expert in its redistricting litigation.
His most recent work, which examines the effects of court decisions on American public opinion, will appear in his forthcoming book Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy (Oxford Press, 2008). The first of its kind, the book gathers together and analyzes all available survey data on issues of constitutional controversy – desegregation, criminal rights, abortion, gay rights, federalism, school prayer, the death penalty, and other areas – and tries to answer two questions: What has the American public (in the aggregate and broken down by groups) believed about these issues for the past 50 years, and how have their attitudes changed (if at all) due to famous court decisions?
Prof. Persily’s interest in political science and the law was sparked while at graduate school at Berkeley, where he discovered that the normative questions concerning the proper design of American democracy were being asked by law professors, rather than by political scientists. He received a B.A. and M.A. in political science from Yale, and from 1992-93 he was the Raoul Wallenberg and Rotary Scholar at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He earned his J.D. from Stanford in 1998 and clerked for the Hon. David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. District from 1998-99. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Berkeley in 2002. After spending 2001 as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, he joined the University of Pennsylvania law faculty, becoming a full professor in 2005, and he will return to Columbia as full professor this fall. The University Trustees will vote at their June meeting to approve his position.
In addition to his upcoming book, Prof. Persily has published dozens of articles on the legal regulation of political parties (Columbia Law Review, N.Y.U. Law Review, and Georgetown Law Journal), on issues surrounding the 2000 census and redistricting process (Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Minnesota Law Review, and North Carolina Law Review), and on campaign finance reform (U. Pa. Law Review, Election Law Journal). In the fall, the Yale Law Journal will publish his article "The Promise and Pitfalls of the new Voting Rights Act," which is based on recent testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act.
Sarah H. Cleveland
Professor of Law

Areas of Expertise

  • Federal Civil Procedure
  • Foreign Relations and the Constitution
  • International Human Rights and Labor Rights
  • International Law in U.S. Courts


  • A.B., Brown University (Phi Beta Kappa), 1987;
  • M.St., Lincoln College, Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar), 1989;
  • J.D., Yale, 1992

Detailed Biography

Law Clerk, Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 1992-1993; Law Clerk, Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Supreme Court of the United States, 1993-1994; Skadden Fellow, Florida Legal Services, conducting impact litigation on behalf of Caribbean sugar cane workers and other migrant workers in the southeastern United States, 1994-1996. Joined University of Texas School of Law in 1997, received its Excellence in Teaching Award in 2000, became Marrs McLean Professor in Law, and was faculty director of the school's transnational workers rights clinic (2004-2007). Author or co-author of numerous amicus briefs and more than 20 law journal articles, book chapters, essays, comments, and reviews. Member, Legal Services Corporation's Erlenborn Commission to review the provision of legal services to aliens in the United States, 1999; Served as an expert on the Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project Working Group, an ABA-sponsored project responsible for drafting a transitional labor and employment code for post-Taliban Afghanistan, 2003. Other professional activities include membership on the Board of Editors of the Journal of International Economic Law, and serving on the legal advisory committees of several human rights nonprofit organizations, including the Center for Justice and Accountability in San Francisco, and the International Labor Rights Fund and the Farmworker Justice Fund, both in Washington, D.C.


Daniel C. Richman

Professor of Law

Areas of Expertise

  • Criminal Procedure: Adjudication
  • Evidence
  • Federal Criminal Law


  • A.B., Harvard (Phi Beta Kappa), 1980;
  • J.D., Yale, 1984. Note Editor, Yale Law Journal.

Detailed Biography

Law Clerk, Chief Judge Wilfred Feinberg, Second Circuit Court of Appeals, 1984-1985; Law Clerk, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court of the United States, 1985-1986; Associate, Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, 1986-1987; Chief Appellate Attorney and Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of New York, 1987-1992. Joined Fordham University School of Law in 1992, tenured in 1998, promoted to full professor in 2000 and named the Brendan Moore Professor in Advocacy in 2006; Visiting Associate Professor of Law, University of Virginia, 1996-1997; and Visiting Professor, Columbia University School of Law, 2002. Other professional activities include Consultant, Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 1997-2000; Independent Expert under the National Basketball Association/ National Basketball Players Association Anti-Drug Program, 2000-present; Peer Reviewer, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, 2000-present; Chairman, Local Conditional Release Commission for the City of New York, 10/2004- 9/2005 (appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg); and Member, Homeland Security Policy Advisory Committee, Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer, 2006.