The Beloved Professor Bederman

Photo of Dr Bederman in classroom

David Bederman

Caroline Joe

On the day that David Bederman, K. H. Gyr Professor of Private International Law, died of cancer in December 2011, the School of Law learned of a $500,000 gift to the David J. Bederman Fund. His wife, Lorre Cuzze, described the news as the only bright spot in an otherwise horrible day.

The law school had established a lecture, along with a summer fellowship at the Hague Academy of International Law, earlier that year in honor of Bederman’s career and accomplishments. Before his death, more than $700,000 was raised with gifts from colleagues, students, friends, and family. Bederman gave the inaugural lecture two months before he died.

During two decades at Emory, Bederman taught courses on international law, torts, admiralty, international institutions, law of international common spaces, legal methods, legislation and regulation, customary law, international environmental law, and foreign relations power. He served as adviser to the Emory International Law Review, was director of international legal studies, and established the Supreme Court Advocacy Project at the law school.

The author of twelve books and 125 articles, Bederman held distinguished visiting professorships at New York University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Virginia. He was counsel of record in fifty-two cases in the United States Courts of Appeals, and he argued four cases before the US Supreme Court. “David’s record of scholarly achievement was impressive to the point of being improbable,” says Dean Robert Schapiro.

Bederman’s defense of Premier Exhibitions, an Atlanta company that held the salvage rights to the Titanic, helped him become one of a handful of lawyers in the world who could navigate the arcane legal realm surrounding shipwrecks. He was honored for his work on this and related admiralty cases by receiving a Mel Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award.

“As academics,” said Bederman, “we have the great gift of getting to pursue unexpected pathways.”

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