By Sheila Pursglove
Had his law career not panned out, Greg Fox had one other big professional dream -- to play for the Boston Bruins.
"Somehow it didn't work out," he says with a smile.
Fox, a specialist in international law and a professor at Wayne State University Law School, owes his career to a passion for history rather than hockey.
"I did an undergraduate honors thesis in history on the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union. That got me very excited about law as a means of social change and as an expression of society's fundamental values," he says. "That - and my father was a law professor."
Fox, who earned his bachelor's degree Phi Beta Kappa with highest honors from Bates College in Lewiston, Me., and his law degree from New York University Law School, was drawn to international law thanks to his NYU professor Thomas Franck.
"He was not only brilliant but had participated in many of the seminal events we studied in his class. Through his charismatic teaching I came to see international law as the next frontier for legal change," Fox says.
"International law, and in particular human rights law, seemed to be at roughly the same stage as protections of civil liberties at the time of the ACLU's founding. So the same ideas that drew me to law in the first place showed up in international law of the time."
After law school Fox, a native of Brookline, Mass., who clerked for the Hon. Alan H. Nevas of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, worked at the firm Hale & Dorr (now Wilmer, Hale) in Boston, where he was able to work on an international human rights case in a federal court.
"Fighting to help our clients -- former Argentine political prisoners -- get justice inspired me to pursue international law as my career," he says.
Fox, who joined Wayne State Law School in 2002 after serving as an assistant professor at Chapman Law School in Orange, Calif., says teaching at WSU allows him to pursue all the things he loves.
"As director of the Program for International Legal Studies I can bring in speakers on international issues of interest to me and the larger Wayne community, organize conferences on cutting edge topics and create opportunities for students that, I hope, creates an enthusiasm for international law," he says. "Wayne students are extraordinarily receptive to these efforts and grateful for the opportunities they create.
"I'm very lucky to teach at a law school that values my field so highly. Dean Bob Ackerman has been incredibly supportive of the international program, as have all my colleagues. I couldn't imagine a better environment to build in my chosen area of work."
Fox, who helped organize February's U.S.-China Economic Law Conference at WSU, has a background of interesting cases to share with his students. He was co-counsel to the State of Eritrea in the Zuqar-Hanish Islands arbitration with the Republic of Yemen, which determined the status of a group of islands in the southern Red Sea. In a case filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, he represented Eritreans forcibly deported from Ethiopia in 1998 and who had their property confiscated by the government. He has also served as counsel in several cases filed under the Alien Tort Statute.
Before his teaching career, he held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and Public International Law in Heidelberg, Germany, and at the Schell Center for Human Rights at Yale Law School. From 1992-95, he worked with his former professor Thomas Franck as co-Director of the Center for International Studies at NYU Law School.
His career has earned a variety of stamps on his passport.
"I travel a lot," he says. "If I had to choose I would say England is my favorite country, mostly because I've been there quite a bit and know it well. I was last there with my family in early 2009 when I had a fellowship at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at Cambridge University."
Fox and his wife Sharon Lean, an Assistant Professor in the WSU Political Science Department, have two daughters, Gillian, 6, and Eleanor, 2-1/2. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, biking and listening to jazz. A self-confessed news and current affairs junkie, he reads as widely as he can on all manner of contemporary political issues, and also enjoys history.
"I'm currently reading 'Nixonland' by Rick Pearlstein, a wonderful evocation of an era that largely shaped today's political landscape."
Published: Wed, Aug 3, 2011