About Me

Writing an "About Me" section is always an awkward affair. If one retains any sort of sensitivity (and some don't), then expositions like this tend to steer carefully between two extremes. On the one hand, these expositions can easily degenerate into bombast or a sort of desperate advertising that serves as its own bathos. At the other extreme, it is relatively easy to affect an artificial humility, or in the best examples of this form, a sort of hyperbolic understatement meant to convey its opposite. I will try to avoid both extremes because I understand that despite the difficulty, these mini-essays can serve to introduce me to you. So in an effort to tell you a little about myself, and in the telling reveal what I sense is important enough about me to be worth telling, I serve up this trifle.

Who am I? Sorry, nothing personal here. This is a professional web site attached to a state assisted university. Besides, all you need to know is nicely set forth in my writing and my teaching. I can reveal that I started life in Cuba. I moved with lots of other people to Miami after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. I grew up in Miami and started traveling when I left for college in Massachusetts. Quite a culture shock, really. But I got over it. I have lived all over this country-Massachusetts, New York, California, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania. I have lived in large cities and very small villages. I have spent a lot of time abroad as well. I tend to view everything as potential original source research material. Nothing is uninteresting-from Jerry Springer on television to great social and political movements. Everything is connected in some way. And I like to laugh. Perhaps who I am can best be understood as proceeding from a view that all categories are artificial to some extent, meant to protect those who maintain the divisions as much as to explain the way things "work" or are "ordered." For your purposes, then, I think that "who am I?" can be most effectively reduced to (1) where do I work; (2) what do I teach; (3) what do I write about; (4) what professional activities to I engage in outside my academic work; and (5) how else might I enjoy the world.

Where do I work?

I joined the faculty at the Pennsylvania State University in 2001 after having served as Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Comparative and International Law Center at the University of Tulsa College of Law. I have taught in the overseas programs of several American Law Schools in Argentina, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

I am part of a hardy group of faculty that together have formed the inaugural faculty of Penn State's first law school at the (main) University Park campus. We are awaiting construction of a new building into which we will pour a vision for teaching and research that will add significantly to our communities.

What do I teach?

I have a wide range of interests in teaching. I have taught the following courses: Comparative Constitutional Law; Comparative Corporate Law; European Union Law (Constitutional, Legal & Institutional Framework); European Union Law (Substantive Law and International Relations); Commercial Law of the European Union; Constitutional Law Seminar (Personal Autonomy, 14th Amendment, Morality Legislation, and Religion); Comparative Constitutional Law Seminar (Personal Autonomy); Comparative Law; Civil Procedure; International Civil Litigation in U.S. Courts; and International Business Transactions.

This academic year I am teaching the following courses: Constitutional Law; Corporate Law; Constitutional Law of Religion; Transnational Law. I have also taught a short course in our London Semester Program, An Introduction to Issues in Transnational Law. There is a "method" to this "madness" as the next section attempts to clarify.

What do I write about?

First a confession: I am hard to "place." My work does not fall neatly into one or another of the fields into which legal academic research usually nicely fits. That sometimes causes anxiety in others. But nonconformity does not suggest disorderliness, or a failure of careful planning. Rather, in my case, it suggests that disciplinary boundaries themselves may be irrelevant to the orderly production of knowledge to which I have devoted myself. But you can be the judge!

Having confessed this nonconformity, I can make another-like many other people, my teaching is closely related to and enriched by my research. Sometimes a person encounters a 'problem' that is particularly interesting, around which much of a lifetime's investigation can center. For me, human organization presents that sort of 'problem.' Human organization, and the reification of its mechanics and power relationships, produces the sort of "law" that serves as a focus of my research. Humans organize themselves in all sorts of ways. We bind ourselves to organization by all sorts of instruments. The American federal constitution, the Bible, the articles of incorporation of Microsoft, marriage vows, treaties, rites and ritual of initiation can all serve as the basis for organization of social, political, religious, ethnic and familial communities. But neither law nor culture recognizes a unitary 'law' of organization. Instead law has been deployed to elaborate differences between economic organizations (principally corporations, partnerships and other combinations), political organization (the state, supra-national, international, and non-governmental organizations), religious, ethnic and family organization.

But this is so abstract. In more concrete terms, I study the relationship between the ordering of power and law. I engage power/law from both its process aspects (the development of a mechanics of rule making, enforcement, interpretation and the like), and its substantive aspects (generally the morals and ethics inscribed as or in law). Thus conceived, the field is enormous. Within it, I have been particularly interested in the following aspects of the problems posed by power/law:

  • The internationalization of constitutionalism either through religious or secular systems of global law or norm systems;
  • The globalization of private law systems;
  • The communication between public and private law in the development of regulatory systems for nations or corporations (thus, for example, the way public democratic theory may be transposed as a value shaping corporate law);
  • The way American domestic federalism principles serve as an important source for the elaboration of a European system of federal organization among independent states grounded in international law; and
  • The way in which distinctions between member and non-member may produce orthodoxies that both empower and limit community authority to discipline members of political, religious, economic and family communities;
  • The way in which moral and ethical systems act as frameworks for the expression of law.

In perhaps more conventional terms, my work focuses on issues of comparative law, constitutional law and corporate law. My research in the constitutional and corporate law fields includes study of both U.S. and non-U.S. legal systems. With respect to non-U.S. law, I have concentrated my research on issues affecting the European Union. My work in constitutional and other foundational law systems forms the core of a more general interest in the interaction of the field of law with other social and political institutions. I have been turning my attention more recently to the shaping of transnational law and institutions in Europe, Latin America, and within emerging networks of private actors (usually but not always economic actors). From time to time I have also written about issues in legal education.

Abstracts of most of my published work and the full text of many of my published articles can be accessed from this site. From time to time I will also post links to manuscripts. Comments are welcome. Some of my work can be accessed on the Social Science Research Network, http://ssrn.com/author=259226.

What do I do professionally?

I believe it is important to find culturally significant methods for producing and communicating knowledge. I have been experimenting. One thing I started doing in 2006 was blogging. My blog site, called "Law at the End of the Day" (http://lcbackerblog.blogspot.com/) serves as aplace for more experimental work. The postings will consist of short essays and commentaries. They are meant to be more pointed (and far less pedantic) than is possible under the strictures of academic writing in traditional outlets.

I have also joined with a number of other people in forming a non-profit organization, the Consortium for Peace and Ethics. CPE will provide an institutional space for an ideology free, non-partisan and independent investigation, analysis, scrutiny, research, inquiry and examination of peace and ethics. To that end, CPE will encourage and support boundary-pushing, multi- and interdisciplinary research that advances an understanding of issues relating to peace and ethics studies. It will serve as a forum for the discussion of issues of peace and ethics as they affect individuals, governments, religion, business, and other organizations. It will also serve as a clearinghouse for the advancement and dissemination of information relating to peace and ethics study.

How else do I enjoy the world?

Students are worth the effort. That is where I focus the rest of my professional life within the legal academy. I am the faculty advisor for the Latino Law Student Association and the International Law Society. Please visit these websites for additional information. In addition, my colleagues and I have been editing the newsletter of the AALS Minority Groups Section, for which I served as Chair in 2007-2008. You may access the Newsletters for 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 here.

I have also worked with student engaged in research and writing-principally through the Penn State International Law Review. With their cooperation, the Law School became an Academic Partner of the American Society of International Law (http://www.asil.org/). We expect to put on a number of conferences aimed for the academy and the bar starting on December 15, 29006. Watch for announcements of upcoming events!

I end this short introduction with my favorite quotes, little snippets full of knowledge and insight that sometimes get me through the day:

1. "Ihrem Ende eilen sie zu, die so stark im Bestehen sich wähnen. Fast schäm' ich mich, mit ihnen zu schaffen; Zur leckenden Lohe mich wieder zu wandeln, Spür' ich lockende Lust. Sie aufzuzehren, die einst mich gezähmt, Statt mit den Blinden blöd' zu vergehn, Und wären es göttlichste Götter! Nicht dumm dünkte mich das! Bedenken will ich's: wer weiss, was ich tu'!" Richard Wagner, Das Rheingold, Scene Four (Loge Aria).

2. "Las ideas no se matan." Fidel Catsro Speech given in Caracas Venezuela, 1999.

3. "This man whom you here see, When he is dead and rotten, By this shall he remembered be, When he should be forgotten." Dedicatory on the portrait of Robert Hayrick; Mayor of Leicester 1584, 1593, 1605; Member of Parliament 1588; Guildhall, Leicester, England.

Notice about Fair Use: This is an educational web site. It is intended primarily for use by my students at the Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law. It is also generally intended for use by students and faculty from other institutions, and members of the judiciary. As an open site, the materials I have posted are available to others as well. I am glad to share these materials with anyone interested enough to read them. However, nothing in the web site is intended to solicit private legal inquiries or to provide legal counsel or legal advice to anyone accessing the materials. Visitors to this web site are welcome to share their thoughts with me. However, I may not be able to respond individually to every communication.

 

My Blog: At the End of the DayView my Curriculum VitaeAbout MePublicationsLinks of InterestCoursesManuscriptsContact Me