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President Chirac Confers France's Highest Honor on Tulane Law Professor

July 07, 2006

The French Ambassador to the United States in Washington and the Consul General in New Orleans recently announced that Tulane law professor Vernon Palmer will be knighted as a "chevalier" in the French Legion of Honor. The Legion of Honor, which was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is the highest civilian award conferred by the French government and recognizes individuals for "eminent services" rendered to France. President Jacques Chirac declared the award by signing a decree in April of this year.

In announcing the award from Washington, French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte wrote, "This award testifies to the President’s high esteem for your merits and accomplishments. In particular, it is a sign of France’s appreciation for your very special contribution to the advancement of the relationship between France and the United States."

In recognition of his work to develop stronger ties between the U.S. and France, Vernon Palmer, Tulane law school professor, will be knighted as a "chevalier" in France this fall.

The French award specifically recognizes Professor Palmer’s work at Tulane in developing stronger ties between France, the United States and Louisiana, as well as the contribution he has made to the field of comparative law through his teaching and research. He has published more than forty books and articles, many of which focus upon the French legal system. Fluent in French, Professor Palmer has twice held the chair of Common Law at the Sorbonne in Paris where for two years he lectured on comparative legal studies to a French audience. As director of Tulane’s Institute of European Legal Studies in Paris for the past eighteen years, he has cultivated a greater understanding between the two countries by attracting large numbers of American students to Paris in the summers to study French law and appreciate French culture.

This latest distinction is the second honor conferred upon him by France. In 1994 the French Prime Minister awarded him the prestigious Palmes Academiques for his role in creating Tulane’s European Legal Practice program.

Conferral of the Legion of Honor on individuals outside of France is exceedingly rare. Outside of such dignitaries of the stature of President Reagan and Secretary of State Colin Powell, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer, who received their medals some years ago, the distinction has been received by few Americans. Professor Palmer appears to be the first American at a United States law school to receive it.

Professor Palmer is unaware of how his name was submitted for consideration but is humbled by the recognition. "It is simply an overwhelming, extraordinary honor, so much so that I feel I should not accept it for myself alone but on behalf of the entire Tulane Law School, Dean Ponoroff, the faculty and students. They have sustained my teaching and research in comparative law and French law for more than thirty years and they have given me wonderful opportunities to teach in France, to direct comparative law programs from New Orleans and Paris and thus to promote stronger ties and relations between France and the United States. Without Tulane's international reputation and commitment to comparative law, I am sure this honor would never have been possible."

The conferral of the medal will take place in the presence of dignitaries of the French diplomatic corps at a formal ceremony in New Orleans in the fall.


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