VULS garners more than $1million in grants to support academic programs

Vanderbilt Law School has received more than $1 million in grants to fund a variety of initiatives during fall 2006, including a two-year study of the international role of American corporations, a study of habeas corpus procedures, a conference addressing dispute resolution among groups scheduled in April 2007, and financial support to enable Vanderbilt law students to participate in international externships at the International Criminal Courts in the Hague and in other externship programs.

"The projects supported by the generous grants we've received this fall promise not only to yield some very useful results, but will also afford opportunities for Vanderbilt law students to be involved in substantive research," said Dean Edward L. Rubin. "I want to commend Margaret Blair, Nancy King, Mike Newton, Roger Connor and other members of the faculty who invested the time and effort to locate and apply for these grants."

Sloan Foundation Grant

Margaret Blair

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded the law school $609,500 to fund a two-year study the international role of American corporations. The funding will enable Law & Business professors Margaret Blair, Randall Thomas and Bob Thompson, international legal scholar Larry Helfer and Erin O'Hara, whose scholarship addresses choice of laws, to pursue several research projects analyzing the roles of transnational corporations as providers and improvisers of governance arrangements. "American corporations with global operations are an important avenue by which U.S. culture, values, business and legal norms and practices, and technology are being spread throughout the world," said Professor Blair. "The pace of globalization in trade, travel and communications is accelerating so fast that even small to mid-sized corporations are likely to operate in more than one country. So we believe that it's no longer possible to understand the social and economic role of American corporations without understanding their role as global players. The funding provided by the Sloan Foundation will enable us to pursue several projects aimed at examining the roles transnational corporations play globally."

NIJ Grant

Nancy King

Vanderbilt has also received a grant of approximately $250,000 from the National Institute of Justice, the research, development and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, to support a study of the processing of habeas corpus cases in U.S. District Courts directed by criminal procedure expert Nancy King. "This study will make available, for the first time, comprehensive empirical information about the processing of capital and non-capital habeas petitions in U.S. district courts under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996," Professor King said. "The overall goal of the research is to provide impartial findings and analyses that will be useful to Congress, courts, attorneys and researchers in assessing habeas policy."

Professor King, together with principal investigators Fred Cheesman and Brian Ostrom of the National Center for State Courts, will analyze data collected from approximately 3,000 cases in which state prisoners have alleged that their convictions or sentences were imposed in violation of the Constitution. "This study is the first to examine this litigation under the current statute," Professor King said. "Several Vanderbilt law students have already assisted in the extensive data collection effort, which has included Internet research as well as visits to district courts in order to research records."

A portion of the study's cost will be funded by the law school, in part through a research grant from the Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program, directed by Professor Richard Nagareda.

Surdna Grant

The law school has received two separate grants from the Andrus Family Fund of the Surdna Foundation of New York to support research and training aimed at resolving community conflict and strengthening the foster care system in the U.S.

The first grant will fund an interdisciplinary conference at the law school on March 30-31, 2007. "The conference will bring together leading experts in conflict resolution representing a broad spectrum of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, religion, philosophy, neuroscience, political science and law, to discuss how concepts that apply to dispute resolution between individuals may change when applied in a group context," Professor Erin O'Hara, who is organizing the conference, said. "We'll be examining emotional, psychological and other barriers to apology, forgiveness and reconciliation in the context of disputes among groups as distinguished from conflicts between individuals."

The conference will provide an opportunity for scholars to discuss their ideas with professionals whose work has addressed group conflicts, including disputes between African-American activists and police over racial profiling, and disagreements between evangelical Christians, mainline Protestants and civil liberties groups over educational materials describing the role of Christian theologians in the rise of Adolf Hitler. "There's a large body of research in the areas of psychology, sociology and law focusing on apology, forgiveness and reconciliation in dyadic relationships, such as those between a victim and her offender, or between husband and wife," said Professor O'Hara, whose work has addressed the influence of law on apology in dispute resolution. "We're interested in determining the extent to which this body of knowledge can be applied in dealing with conflicts between groups, and we'll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of prevailing theories of conflict resolution with pure practitioners."

The second grant funds an ongoing program through which Vanderbilt Law School will coordinate research, technical assistance and training for other Andrus Family Fund (AFF) grantees engaged in initiatives designed not only to effect positive social change, but also to identify and address emotional and psychological barriers that either prevent change or threaten its long-term success. According to Roger Conner, adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School and director of the AFF project, the need for better approaches to helping individuals and groups navigate emotionally charged transition periods is particularly urgent for two current AFF initiatives - improving the process by which children in foster care transition to independent living when they reach age 18, and resolving longstanding community conflicts.

"In most states, young people are expected to become independent almost instantaneously when they 'age out' of the foster care system at 18, although they have typically had little of the sort of mentoring that prepares young adults to make a successful transition to living on their own," he explained. "Experience shows that it's equally difficult for people in communities where conflicts have festered for years to make the emotional transitions required to achieve lasting peace. We'll be working with an interdisciplinary team of professionals in organizational development, leadership and conflict resolution, along with AFF members and other AFF grant recipients, to develop new tools designed to help adults and youth navigate these crucial transitions."

The Surdna Foundation, one of the oldest and largest philanthropic family foundations in the United States, created the Andrus Family Fund in 2000 to allow fifth-generation family members between the ages of 25 and 45 to direct a significant portion of the foundation's annual giving. "We are genuinely excited about the opportunity to work with members of the Andrus Family Fund to provide research and training resources to support their foster care transition and community reconciliation programs," Dean Edward L. Rubin said. "These programs have tremendous potential to improve lives in the communities where they're implemented, and we hope they will enable us to develop effective methods that can be used to effect reconciliation and healing in other situations where conflicts among groups appear insurmountable."

Planethood Foundation Grant

Finally, the law school received a $10,000 grant by the Planethood Foundation, a small private foundation based in White Plains, New York, that focuses on programs relating to international justice, the rule of law, and conflict resolution, to help fund student externships in the spring and summer of 2007.

According to Professor Mike Newton, who applied for the Planethood grant on behalf of the law school, "The grant will help defray expenses incurred by Vanderbilt students who are working in programs in support of international criminal justice, including students accepted for externships with the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Sierra Leone Special Court, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda."

The externships the Planethood grant will support are offered through the law school's International Legal Studies Program, which is directed by Professor Laurence Helfer. "This grant will enable more students to take advantage of a unique professional opportunity to work with international criminal tribunals, which are making vital contributions to the development of international law and conflict resolution," Professor Helfer said. "I am sincerely grateful to Planethood for their support of our students' work on behalf of international criminal justice."