Separation of Powers Expert Joins CLS Faculty

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James O’Neill 212-854-1584  Cell: 646-596-2935
April 3, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Trevor W. Morrison, an expert on separation of powers, federalism and executive branch legal interpretation, will join the Columbia Law School faculty July 1.
Morrison’s current scholarship looks at how rules can be crafted to guide the executive branch to interpret its legal authority and role under the Constitution – an issue that has garnered headlines through the years of the Bush presidency as the United States grapples with constitutional restraints in the face of the war on terror.
Morrison, a 1998 Columbia Law School graduate, returns to his alma mater after five years at Cornell Law School, where he was an assistant professor from 2003 to 2006 and an associate professor since 2006. Two of his recent articles, published in the Columbia Law Review, touch on issues very much in the public arena: “Constitutional Avoidance in the Executive Branch,” and “Suspension and the Extrajudicial Constitution.”
Several positions in Washington cultivated Morrison’s interest in the struggle for constitutional power between branches of government, and his particular research focus - creating mechanisms to ensure that the executive branch abides by the Constitution even when the courts have no direct ability to enforce constitutional behavior.
He clerked in the 1998-99 term for the Hon. Betty B. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Washington, then spent 1999-2000 as a Bristow Fellow at the Office of the Solicitor General in the U.S. Justice Department. In 2000-01, Morrison was an attorney-advisor in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
In 2001 and 2002 Morrison was an associate at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale). Then, during the 2002-03 Term, Morrison clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59. Ginsburg in 1972 became the first woman to hold a full-time faculty position at Columbia Law School.
Morrison grew up on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and earned his B.A. from the University of British Columbia in 1994. As an undergraduate, he was a history major, and several professors who specialized in East Asian and Japanese intellectual history steered him towards a graduate program in the field.
He initially planned to get a Ph.D. in Japanese history, specializing in legal history in the late 1800s, when Japan was debating how to form a modern nation-state and legal system. He decided he needed a foundation in the law, and enrolled at Columbia Law School.
The nuances and details of the legal world and legal theory swiftly broadened the narrow career path Morrison had initially set for himself. “Halfway through my first year at Columbia, I realized I had seen another world I hadn’t known before, and by graduation I knew I wanted to be a legal academic and not a historian,” Morrison said.
He said several courses and professors proved particularly influential, including a first-year constitutional law class taught by Kendall Thomas, and an upper year course by Michael Dorf called Theories of Constitutional Interpretation. (Morrison and Dorf are currently writing a book together.) A federal courts course taught by John Manning and an advanced course taught by Henry Paul Monaghan also influenced Morrison, who became a research assistant for Monaghan.
“Those experiences were key to shaping my interest in law,” Morrison said. “Every class was an opportunity to debate issues that matter to a lot of people, not just narrow topics that are of interest only to academics. In law school, the significance of what we were discussing was palpable and immediate.”
Morrison said his return to Morningside Heights will include searching out his favorite haunts from law school days, including the Hungarian Pastry Shop. Morrison and his wife, Beth Katzoff, met when both were graduate students at Columbia University. The couple has two daughters, aged six years and 17 months.
Katzoff, who earned a Ph.D. in Japanese history at Columbia and built a career working in the East Asian collections of several libraries, including the Library of Congress, will take a position at Columbia’s C. V. Starr East Asian Library in Kent Hall. C.V. Starr is one of the major collections for the study of East Asia in the United States, with nearly 750,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Mongol, Manchu, and Western-language materials and more than 5,000 periodical titles.
Morrison joins two other newcomers to the faculty announced this month: Theodore M. Shaw, director-counsel and president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Jamal Greene, a constitutional law expert and former journalist.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law. The Law School offers J.D., J.S.D. and LL.M. degree programs to a diverse student body.