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James D. Hopkins Professor of Law Memorial Lecture

November 12, 2014

Professor Jill Gross
James D. Hopkins Professor of Law

“Setting the Record Straight: The Supreme Court and 21st Century Arbitration”


The Supreme Court has decided more than two dozen cases under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) since 2000 – arising primarily from a commercial, consumer, employment, or securities dispute. Those decisions, particularly those interpreting FAA §2, have contributed to the Court’s modern arbitration jurisprudence that creates a strong national policy favoring arbitration, enforces agreements to arbitrate against virtually any defense, pushes many individual claims into arbitration against the will of one or more parties, and suppresses other claims, particularly those of small dollar value.

Yet, to the extent those decisions contain language describing one or more aspects of the process of arbitration, they describe the nineteenth, and perhaps twentieth century practice of arbitration; not the reality of twenty-first century arbitration. The Court’s uninformed and out-of-touch decisions have crafted a legal framework regulating an arbitration process that largely no longer exists in most commercial arbitration forums today.

This lecture will explore the dichotomy between the Supreme Court’s theoretical understanding of arbitration on which its current FAA jurisprudence is based and the actual twenty-first century practice of arbitration which that jurisprudence regulates. Professor Gross will demonstrate that the Court’s refusal to engage with and recognize the current practice of arbitration has fueled the Court’s misinterpretation of the FAA, negatively impacted disputants in arbitration and contributed to the widely held perception that arbitration is unfair.


Professor Jill Gross has been named as the James D. Hopkins Professor of Law for the 2013-2015 academic years. The Hopkins professorship is an endowed chair established to honor Judge James D. Hopkins, who served as interim dean of Pace Law School from 1982-83. The Chair is awarded every two years to a faculty member who has made extraordinary contributions to the law school primarily in the areas of scholarship and teaching.


Justice James D. Hopkins
Interim Dean (1982–1983),
Pace Law School

The James D. Hopkins Professor of Law is an endowed chair established with contributions from alumni/ae of Pace Law School and members of the legal community to honor Judge James D. Hopkins who served as Interim Dean of the Law School in 1982–1983. The title of James D. Hopkins Professor of Law is held by a distinguished member of the faculty for a two-year term in recognition of outstanding scholarship and teaching. The Hopkins Lecture is delivered by the honoree in the fall semester of the first year.

Judge James D. Hopkins' service to society and to the legal community was a shining example of the life one should live in the law. At the time of his retirement from the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court in December, 1981, he had served with distinction at the highest level of all three branches of the Westchester County Government: legislative, executive and judicial.

A lifelong resident of Westchester County, Judge Hopkins began his legal career as an associate with Strang & Taylor and later became partner of Bleakley, Platt and Walker, now known as Bleakley Platt & Schmidt. In 1954, he became County Executive of Westchester County following a one-year term as majority leader of the Westchester County Board of Supervisors which he also served as Chairman from 1952-1953. Judge Hopkins was Councilman and later Town Supervisor of the Town of North Castle. On appointment by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Judge Hopkins served on the New York State Supreme Court, 9th Judicial District, a post to which he was subsequently elected, in 1960, for a 14-year term. He joined the Appellate Division, Second Department, in 1962.

Judge Hopkins passed away at the age of 84 in 1996. Pace University School of Law owes a special debt to Judge Hopkins. He served as Interim Dean at a critical time in its development, from 1982-1983, and served as Honorary Chair of its Board of Visitors. We are honored to have our first Chair in Law bear his name.


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