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  October 15, 2001

Oxford's Loss was UConn's Gain
When Janis Returned to Hartford

When veteran law school professor Mark W. Janis left the University of Connecticut in 1993 to accept a prestigious teaching position at the University of Oxford in England, many of his colleagues thought they had lost him for good.

After all, in its rich history, Oxford had only extended such an offer to a handful of American professors. For Janis, it was a return home, of sorts. His wife was born in England and they met there while Janis was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in the 1960s.

Hugh Macgill was dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law when Oxford made the offer, and he let his feelings be known.

"It was an outright raid," says Macgill. "I knew there was nothing we could do about it."

But that didn't stop him from trying.

"I told Mark that Oxford has a lot of butlers, but not a lot of secretaries," Macgill says. "He's full of ideas, and is more interested in research and writing than in how his dinner is served."

Janis does not dispute that analysis. Oxford is known for its rich traditions, he says. "It is difficult to match innovation with tradition. You can't both do things the way they've been done and do things differently."

So four years after leaving Hartford, Janis accepted a counter-offer from Macgill and returned to do things differently. "We raided them right back," says Macgill.

Janis says the decision was complex, involving his wife, his four sons, his research and writing, and his commitment to UConn's growing and innovative human rights program.

International Law Program
He returned to Hartford, where he has built an international law program unparalleled in most other law schools around the country. UConn is also one of the few U.S. law schools to offer courses in European human rights law.

Today, participation in the LL.M. program he launched in 1994 has more than doubled, from 10 students when the program started to 27 this year.

The one-year program has attracted more than 150 students, all foreign law graduates, who complete a master's degree in U.S. law and legal institutions.

At 54, Janis is the author of dozens of articles and three widely used books, An Introduction to International Law (Aspen, 3rd edition, 1999), Cases and Commentary on International Law, with John Noyes (West, 2nd edition, 2001), and European Human Rights Law, with Richard S. Kay and Anthony W. Bradley (Oxford, 2nd edition, 2000).

New Field of Study
He became interested in European human rights law during a fellowship in Heidelberg, Germany, where he was greatly influenced by European colleagues.

"Mark was a pioneer in the study of the system of human rights law in Europe," Macgill says.

When Janis and his longtime colleague Richard Kay first wrote their book in 1990, they could find no academic press willing to publish it. The law school took the risk, publishing the book. Oxford University Press has since published two further editions.

The most recent edition of the book offers a comprehensive history and analysis of the formation of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Janis's contribution focuses on the effectiveness of the court.

"The question of European human rights is," Janis tells his students in a course structured around his book, "why has it succeeded as much as it has?"

He has spent much of his career answering that question and documenting his answer.

"Mark has been a leader in bringing the news of the European system to a North American audience," says Kay, who co-teaches the European Human Rights class at UConn.

"His principal interest has been how international legal process has been so startlingly successful in making human rights effective," Kay says.

The Strasbourg Court
In his weekly seminar to graduate law students, Janis relishes in sharing the story of the Strasbourg court, which he peppers with puns and one-liners. He has an easy-going conversational style, motivating his students by asking questions, instead of lecturing.

After class, Janis talks about the "Death on the Rock Case," which he believes illustrates the effectiveness of the Strasbourg Court.

The case involved British security officers who killed three Irish Republican Army terrorists in Gibraltar, whom they believed were on their way to explode a bomb.

The families of the three men brought suit in England seeking damages, but were turned down by the English courts. They then turned to the Strasbourg court, which as part of its unusual founding treaty allows individuals to file petitions.

The Strasbourg court found that England had every right to take measures to protect itself against terrorism, but that the officers used excessive force. It awarded damages to the families, amounting to about $60,000.

Although the British objected at first, the government eventually did pay the families. The outcome speaks to the success of the Strasbourg court, says Janis.

The preservation of the system and the protection of human rights are the principal reasons why the Strasbourg Court survives, he says. The dozens of countries who are members abide by its findings, even if governments dispute the judgments.

"It's a commitment to what we call the Rule of Law," Janis said.

International Renown
Janis and Kay, both American scholars, are better known in Europe than they are at home. Their books are widely circulated at the International Court of Justice in The Hague and at the Strasbourg Court.

One of his students this year discovered that last summer, while completing a seminar at The Hague Academy.

"He is very popular in the Netherlands," says Jayasudha Reddy, a student from India completing a one-year master's in law at UConn.

She would often meet faculty and fellow students impressed with the fact that she was going from The Hague to Hartford, to study human rights law.

"They would say, 'that's the place where Mark Janis teaches,'" Reddy says. And that is precisely what brought her here.

Reddy, whose father works for the United Nations in East Timor, wants to work with an international organization involved in human rights. Janis has been very helpful in preparing her, she says: "He's been more than a professor; he's been like a guide."

At Reddy's request for more intensive study, Janis designed a three-credit independent project examining a few international non-profit organizations and their effectiveness in the field of human rights work. Reddy submits weekly papers to Janis.

"He never looks at one thing," Reddy said. "He always gives you a ten-fold analysis."

Meredith Carlson Daly