James D. Hopkins Professor of Law Memorial Lecture

photo of law books on shelf -- James D. Hopkins Professor of Law Memorial Lecture header

Bridget CrawfordBridget Crawford
James D. Hopkins Professor of Law
"Democracy, Termites and Trust(s)"
February 6, 2019

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Bridget Crawford was named as the James D. Hopkins Professor of Law for the 2017-2019 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.


The word “trust” has multiple meanings. In everyday speech, it refers to a feeling of confidence associated with integrity: trusting that a friend will keep a secret or that a defendant will receive a fair trial. In a financial context, some law students, lawyers and lucky individuals understand that a trust is also a near-magical device, splitting legal and equitable title between a trustee and a beneficiary. A trustee holds formal legal title to property for the benefit of a beneficiary, simply because the grantor declared it to be so.

Turning a spotlight on trust – in both senses of the word – helps us see the precarious, vulnerable nature of democracy in the United States today. Just as termites can enter homes through foundational cracks or wood brought from the outside, public trust in the government erodes when a nation’s elected leaders are dishonest or stifle dissent. Individuals or groups, both internal and abroad, also can undermine trust in political and legal systems though the targeted use of social media to spread false information. And just as termites can slowly and steadily damage a home over a period of years before the harm suddenly becomes visible, the beneficial form of ownership known as a trust has gradually – and now suddenly – morphed nearly beyond recognition over the last twenty years. Traditional trust limitations — including how long trusts can last, in what circumstances they can be modified, and what types of property they can hold — have been eaten away. In some states, irrevocable trusts can now last forever, be decanted to another trust with entirely different terms, or even hold legal “title” to human embryos.

These changes to centuries of trust law reveal changing attitudes about wealth, property ownership, and personal autonomy that are distress signals in an ailing democracy. If society truly values equal opportunities for all people, then trust and trusts need attention.


Bridget CrawfordAugust 2017-May 2019
Bridget Crawford
"Democracy, Termites and Trust(s)"
  >> View lecture video

Lissa GriffinAugust 2015-May 2017
Lissa Griffin
"Wrongful Convictions: A Comparative Perspective"

Jill GrossAugust 2013-May 2015
Jill Gross
"Setting the Record Straight: The Supreme Court and 21st Century Arbitration"

Linda FentimanAugust 2011-May 2013
Linda Fentiman
"Are Mothers Hazardous to their Children’s Health: Law, Culture, and the Framing of Risk"

John R. NolonAugust 2009–May 2011
John R. Nolon
"Sustainable Development Law: Keeping Pace"

Bennett L. GershmanAugust 2007–May 2009
Bennett L. Gershman
"The Most Dangerous Power of the Prosecutor"

Michael B. MushlinAugust 2005–May 2007
Michael B. Mushlin
"The Prison Crucible: Race and the American Penal System"

Barbara BlackAugust 2003–May 2005
Barbara Black
"Is Securities Arbitration Fair to Investors?"

Donald DoernbergAugust 2001–May 2003
Donald Doernberg
"The New Federalism: Sovereign Immunity or the Rule of Law."<br />

Jeffrey G. MillerAugust 1999–May 2001
Jeffrey G. Miller
"Evolutionary Statutory Interpretation or Mr. Justice Scalia Meets Darwin, Dean Ottinger, and Various Theories of Memes, Ecology, Complexity, and the Common Law"

James J. FishmanAugust 1997–May 1999
James J. Fishman
"Tenure and Its Discontents"

Stuart MaddenAugust 1995–May 1997
M. Stuart Madden
"The Vital Common Law: Its Role in a Statutory Age"

John A. HumbachAugust 1993–May 1995
John A. Humbach
"Property Rights, Takings and Justice in a Democracy"

Nicholas A. RobinsonAugust 1991–May 1993
Nicholas A. Robinson
"Emerging Earth Law"

Maurice RosenbergAugust 1989–May 1991
Maurice Rosenberg



Judge James D. Hopkins
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.