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September 2001

Joan E. Steinman
Distinguished Professor of Law

What is the distinction between interpleader and joinder of parties? Between cross claims and counterclaims? Between ancillary, pendent and supplemental jurisdiction?
In the complex arena of civil procedure, Distinguished Professor Joan E. Steinman has the answers.

When Professor Steinman was first approached to oversee a volume of the next edition of Wright and Miller's classic treatise, Federal Practice and Procedure, she declined. It wasn't until she was offered the authorship of the volumes she wanted that she accepted.

"They first offered me the volume on venue. I told them that I think it's a great treatise and I'd love to work on it, but I thought I would be bored to death writing about venue," she says with a laugh. "Then they offered me the volumes on removal and I accepted."

As one of the nation's top experts in federal jurisdiction and removal, Steinman is a perfect match for the Wright and Miller treatise project. And Steinman can use the opportunity to stay sharp in her primary area of legal scholarship.

"The issues involved in removal are among the most complex encountered in the area of civil procedure. That's probably why I find them interesting," she explains.

Steinman also has contributed her expertise to the American Law Institute's Federal Judicial Code Revision project, which will publish proposed revisions this year for those sections of title 28 of the U.S. Code governing supplemental jurisdiction, removal and venue in the district courts.

"There always are procedural issues to re-think because civil litigation is expensive, complicated, and time consuming. People want their disputes resolved as quickly, efficiently and justly as possible," says Steinman.

At Chicago-Kent, Steinman teaches Civil Procedure, Complex Litigation, and Appellate Courts and Procedure. Two of the challenges she says she faces in teaching her first-year Civil Procedure course are engendering in her students the passion she has for this area of law and impressing upon them the importance of the myriad details of civil procedure.

Accordingly, she periodically sets aside the traditional classroom approach of case analysis to discuss The Buffalo Creek Disaster, a non-fiction book in which civil procedure issues figure prominently. The book chronicles a lawsuit against a large corporation, brought by residents of several small towns in West Virginia's Buffalo Creek hollow, after a dam collapsed and flooded the valley with sludge.

"It's a very appealing story about people who had their homes and communities wiped out by a flood. You root for the people who were stone-walled by this coal company. The story gives students a reason to care about the doctrines of civil procedure, about jurisdiction, and about the doctrines that govern discovery," says Steinman. "It shows you can do good and important things with mastery of procedural tools."


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