Importing Legal Ideas, Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law

Walter F. Murphy Lecture in American Constitutionalism

Mon, 11/19/2007
8:00 PM, Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Co-sponsored Event

With globalization transforming cultural as well as economic life, it would be remarkable if legal norms and institutions were unaffected. Yet in the United States, where we are accustomed to thinking of our country as a legal exporter, several recent Supreme Court references to foreign law have aroused a firestorm of controversy. Professor Glendon's Murphy Lecture will honor Walter Murphy's pioneering work in comparative constitutional law by offering a comparatist's perspective on the risks and benefits of importing legal ideas, with suggestions on how the former can be minimized and the latter maximized. 

This lecture, part of the Walter F. Murphy Lecture in American Constitutionalism series, is co-sponsored with the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.

Mary Ann Glendon is the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University and President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. She writes and teaches in the fields of human rights, comparative law, constitutional law, and legal theory. Recent developments in those areas are analyzed in her most recent book, Traditions in Turmoil (2006).

Glendon is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Academy of Comparative Law, and a past president of the UNESCO-sponsored International Association of Legal Science. She served two terms as a member of the U.S. President's Council on Bioethics (2001-2004), and has represented the Holy See at various conferences including the 1995 U.N. Women's conference in Beijing where she headed the Vatican delegation.

Glendon has contributed to legal and social thought in several articles and books, and has lectured widely in this country and in Europe. Her ten books, bringing a comparative approach to a variety of subjects, include A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001), described by the New York Times reviewer as the definitive study of the framing of the UDHR; A Nation Under Lawyers (1996), a portrait of turbulence in the legal profession, analyzing the implications of changes in legal culture for a democratic polity that entrusts crucial roles to legally trained men and women; Seedbeds of Virtue (co-edited with David Blankenhorn) (1995); Rights Talk (1991); The Transformation of Family Law (1989), winner of the Order of the Coif Triennial Book Award; Abortion and Divorce in Western Law (1987), winner of the Scribes Book Award for best writing on a legal subject; The New Family and the New Property (1981), and textbooks on comparative legal traditions.

Her prizes and honors include the National Humanities Medal, the Bradley Foundation Prize, and honorary doctorates from numerous universities including the Universities of Chicago and Louvain. Glendon taught at Boston College Law School from 1968 to 1986, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School, the Gregorian University, and the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum. She received her bachelor of arts, juris doctor, and master of comparative law degrees from the University of Chicago. During a post-graduate fellowship for the study of European law, she studied at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and was a legal intern with the European Economic Community. From 1963 to 1968, she practiced law with the Chicago firm of Mayer, Brown & Platt, and served as a volunteer civil rights attorney in "Freedom Summer" 1964.

A native of Berkshire County, Glendon lives with her husband, Edward R. Lev, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. They have three daughters and six grandchildren. For more on Mary Ann Glendon, visit