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Palmer hailed as one of world’s top comparative law scholars

December 02, 2021 12:00 PM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu

Prof. Vernon Palmer in May will be honored as one of “Five Great Comparatists” by the International Academy of Comparative Law for his landmark contributions to the field.


Tulane Law Professor Vernon Palmer has been named one of the leading scholars of the world’s legal systems by the International Academy of Comparative Law (IACL).

Palmer joins a select few international scholars – and the only American – honored as “Five Great Comparatists” for his landmark contributions to the field, an honor created in 2017 by the Academy and awarded to only one other group of five scholars to date.

“To be celebrated by one’s peers as one of the 10 most influential scholars in a discipline is an enormous achievement,” said Law Dean David Meyer. “The recognition is richly deserved by Vernon and a wonderful affirmation of Tulane Law School’s storied and vital leadership in comparative law.” 

Palmer, Thomas Pickles Chair and Co-Director of the Eason Weinmann Center for Comparative Law, will receive the honor at a ceremony in Paris, France, in May of next year, and will join his class of Great Comparatists at a roundtable to discuss the future of the field.

The other honorees in May 2022 are Ewoud Hondius of Utrecht University; Jorge Sánchez Cordero of the UNIDROIT Governing Council and Director of the Mexican Center of Uniform Law; Esin Örücü of the University of Glasgow; and Élisabeth Zoller of the University of Paris II (Panthéon-Assas). 

A New Orleans native, Palmer earned his law degree at Tulane in 1965, and later received a master’s and PhD in law from Yale and Oxford universities, respectively. He has taught at Tulane since 1970 and is currently celebrating his 50th year of teaching.

Over the years, Palmer has done extensive research abroad in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Japan and Africa.  He is one of three Tulane Law faculty members who are titular members of the International Academy, along with James Gordley, the W.R. Irby Chair in Law, and Guiguo Wang, the Eason Weinmann Chair Emeritus of International and Comparative Law.  Palmer is now serving as a National Reporter for the United States to the Academy’s upcoming international conference in Paraguay.

Among his notable accolades: Paris-Dauphine University honored him as a Docteur en Droit Honoris Causa in 2013, and in 2006, French President Jacques Chirac knighted Palmer as a “chevalier” in the French Legion of Honor, the country’s highest civilian award, for his efforts to build stronger ties between the United States and France. Earlier in his career, Palmer received from the French Prime Minister the Palmes Académiques.

Throughout the late 80s and early 90s Palmer had a number of stints at universities around the world: He held the Chair of Common Law at the University of Paris (Sorbonne), was a Visiting Professor of Comparative Law at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, the Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, the University of Trent in Trento, Italy, the University of Lausanne, the University of Geneva, and the University of Fribourg.

He has written more than 50 books and articles focusing on his research in comparative law and legal history, and his most recent , The Lost Translators of 1808 and the Birth of Civil Law in Louisiana (Univ. Georgia Press 2021), solves a legal “whodunit” in identifying the pioneers who wrote the English translation of one of Louisiana’s founding documents. 

Palmer with the original de la Vergne. 

In 2019, Palmer was instrumental in bringing the most fabled book in Louisiana legal history – the de la Vergne volume – to Tulane as a gift from a benefactor.

This founding document, which Palmer has extensively researched, details not only the laws of the 1808 Louisiana territory but also contains the hand-written notes of its principal codifier.

In 2017, the IACL, which has more than 700 members whose work is focused on legal systems across the globe, honored its inaugural class of “Five Great Comparatists.” They included Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School; Heinz Kötz of Bucerius Law School and the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and Comparative Law; Xavier Blanc-Jouvan of the University of Paris I; Jean-Louis Baudoin of Montreal University and the Quebec Court of Appeal; and Rodolfo Sacco of the University of Turin.