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Faculty welcomes international law scholar

July 01, 2008

Laura A. Dickinson, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law whose work deals with transitional justice, legal responses to terror, foreign affairs privatization, and the interrelationship between international and domestic law, will join the faculty of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in August.

She also will become director of a new center on international law and national security, to be jointly sponsored by the College of Law and the School for Global Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“ASU is a university whose faculty members are striving to solve some of the most serious problems facing the state, the nation and the world,” ASU President Michael Crow says. “Laura A. Dickinson is a renowned scholar who is focused on international issues of great consequence, and we are fortunate that she has agreed to join our College of Law.”

Dickinson, a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, will be a Foundation Professor of Law. She will teach human rights and courses related to international law and administrative law. Her appointment enhances the college’s already strong faculty presence in international law, human rights and national security.

“Professor Dickinson will be an important bridge between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Law,” says Elizabeth D. Capaldi, ASU’s executive vice president and provost. “Her appointment builds on current strengths at ASU to create an interdisciplinary program in the area of international law with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her center in this area will be adding two additional faculty members shortly, positioning ASU as a leader in global education and research.”

Adds Quentin Wheeler, university vice president and dean: “As the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences becomes increasingly global in its vision and reach, the expertise that professor Dickinson brings will be of inestimable value to our students and programs. Her widely recognized views on international issues, human rights and democracy studies are of deep relevance to many of our units and programs. Under her leadership, the new research center in the college will have far-reaching impacts on campus, across the nation and around the world.”

In commenting on her scholarly interests, Dickinson says: “I became interested in human rights when, as a law student, I had the opportunity to take a human-rights clinic. We sued the U.S. government for Haitian and Cuban refugees who were picked up on the high seas and brought to Guantanamo Bay. They were not getting any screening to see if they were refugees, and we challenged that in federal court.”

Following that early experience, Dickinson worked on a variety of alien tort cases in which non-citizens could bring cases of torture or other serious human rights abuses in federal court against foreign dictators who came to the United States.

Dickinson, who is widely published and quoted, is the author of the upcoming book, “Outsourcing War and Peace,” to be published by Yale University Press. The book focuses on the increasing privatization of military functions, foreign aid and diplomacy, the ways in which such privatization affects human-rights law, and the variety of mechanisms that might be used to create greater accountability over private actors working abroad under government contracts.

“When we went to war in Iraq, I could see after the first year that we were using contractors to an unprecedented degree,” Dickinson says. “I was interested in the human-rights implications of that.”

Jeremy Paul, dean of University of Connecticut School of Law, says Dickinson’s work is notable because it avoids the polarized views on the issue.

“Laura’s work steers a course between two extremes,” Paul says. “She thinks it’s unrealistic to believe public financing can fund all activity overseas and that contracting is here to stay. In that regard, she’s breaking from liberal orthodoxy.

“On the other hand, she believes it is extremely important to police the activities of all the non-governmental agencies representing our country around the world. Her book, which proposes a series of accountability mechanisms that would start with the contract the agency signs, will be extremely important.”

Adds Patricia D. White, dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law: “Laura Dickinson is emerging as one of the real stars in international law, and the College of Law is fortunate indeed to have her joining its faculty.”

Judy Nichols,
(480) 727-7895
College of Law