Jan 20, 2009 — Richard Weisberg, the Walter Floersheimer Professor of Constitutional Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, received the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, at a ceremony last week.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a decree awarding Weisberg the Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honor in recognition of his “contribution to the development of French-American relations in the defense of human rights, and in striving for the reparation of wrongs and of losses suffered by Jewish families during World War II.”
Weisberg is an expert on the practice of law during the Vichy regime (1940s) and wrote “Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France,” published in 1996 by New York University Press and translated into French in 1998.
Since 2001, he has represented plaintiffs to an oversight committee, consisting of American State Department and French government officials that has responsibility for the restitution of banking assets stolen during the Vichy regime to victims or their heirs. He also worked on cases in American federal court against various banks and other institutions for their actions during the Holocaust.
Created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion of Honor is conferred on illustrious individuals. They are appointed for life through a decree signed by the President of the Republic and are nominated for distinguished military or civilian service and professional prominence. Each year, about 10 Americans are recognized with this honor. Among the Americans who have been honored are Colin Powell, Ronald Regan, Neil Armstrong, Robert De Niro and Estée Lauder.
“We are very proud that Richard Weisberg’s extensive legal and historical research and service to the French people are being recognized,” Cardozo Dean David Rudenstine said. “His work has uncovered disturbing truths that have important legal and civil implications worldwide, and here at Cardozo, his contributions enrich the law school for students and faculty alike.”
Weisberg, who has taught at Cardozo since 1977, is the second faculty member to receive this honor; Michel Rosenfeld was recognized as a Knight in 2004.
Weisberg’s specialties also include constitutional law and trusts and estates. He is a pioneer of the worldwide interdisciplinary Law and Literature movement, is the founding editor of the 20-year-old journal, “Law and Literature” (University of California Press), and is the author of “The Failure of the Word,” “When Lawyers Write,” and “Poethics: And Other Strategies of Law and Literature.” He is a former chair of the law and humanities section of the American Association of Law Schools. From 1979 to 1986, he was president of the Law and Humanities Institute and has been its chair since 1987.
Among other honors, Weisberg was a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Society for the Humanities of Cornell University, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1998, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow for his study of the privatization of public discourse. In fall 2002, Weisberg was on the visiting faculty at the Johns Hopkins program in Nanjing, China.
Prior to taking his position at Cardozo, Weisberg was associated with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. While at Columbia University, where he received his J.D., he was an editor of the “Columbia Law Review.” He holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. He began his teaching career as an assistant professor of French literature at the University of Chicago.