Q&A with Professor Robin J. Effron

We followed up with Professor Robin J. Effron ’04 about her new article, The Lost Story of Notice and Personal Jurisdiction, slated for publication in Volume 74 Issue 1.

Tell me about your work as a law professor at Brooklyn Law School and as a co-director at Block Center for International Business Law.  What is your day-to-day like?

I teach mostly civil procedure and business law classes, so my day-to-day is mostly teaching and writing.  Much of my work with the Block Center for the Study of International Business law is student oriented.  I work with student fellows on their work and I’m involved with their research papers, organizing speakers, and working with students and with other faculty members.

Were you always interested in becoming a law professor?

Yes, when I started law school I knew I wanted to go into academia.  I also thought about pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy or Political Science.  I knew law was my interest anyway, and I thought it was a more practical interest, so I went to law school but I always knew I wanted to go into academia.

What sparked your interest in civil procedure and personal jurisdiction?

Civil procedure with Rochelle Dreyfuss was one of my favorite classes in law school, but what really got me interested was my experience clerking for Judge Hellerstein in the Southern District of New York after law school.  The biggest cases he had at the time were the 9/11 cases, which were really big and complex cases that are still ongoing, believe it or not. 

Watching how he handled the cases and how so much depended on procedure and what the judge was doing solidified my interest in civil procedure.  My first journal article I wrote was about the 9/11 cases and since then, I’ve been interested in that part of civil procedure.

To the extent I also work in international business law, a large part of that involves procedure, especially in international arbitration, so it allows me to pursue my interests in both civil procedure and jurisdiction.

What is your usual process in selecting a topic for an article?

I usually start with a question or a hypothesis and that’s how this article started.  I was myself wondering about the relationship between personal jurisdiction and notice.  While I was looking for an answer, it became clear that people hadn’t engaged in a more lengthy or systemic thinking of the question. 

My hypothesis was that they were related at both a historical and constitutional level, but my question was how we got from where we were in the 1850s to where we are now.

Your article discusses the potential effects of a return to notice through a notice-inclusive approach.  Do you predict the Court will make a return to Notice?

I don’t have high hopes for the Court going back to that because there have been reasonable and smart approaches to personal jurisdiction that people have been putting forth for a number of years, including unhooking personal jurisdiction from the due process clauses altogether.  The Supreme Court seems not to be interested in them, so I don’t know why they would listen to my approach.  

I am advocating for courts using the doctrines and values behind notice, which courts could use in terms of fairness and reasonableness without any attention-drawing formal announcement of doctrinal change.  What I expect to see at a doctrinal level, and what I would hope for would be for courts, in a more organic way, to turn to the criteria they are already using and have that move into higher courts, rather than a formal doctrinal shift.  A lot of the values that are part of considering whether notice is important to personal jurisdiction fit nicely into the criteria the courts already have, like an emphasis in fairness and reasonableness, which for better or worse has fallen out of favor a bit, but are still an important part.  It would involve courts using that criteria and moving it back in, seeing how notice would fit into jurisdiction under the same criteria.