U-M law professor among next generation of authors for procedural casebook


By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Eve Brensike Primus’ path in becoming a lawyer was cemented from an early age upon witnessing her uncle, a prosecutor, during a trial where a guilty verdict was read. “I developed an interest in law when I was very young. I enjoyed the litigation side of things,” said Primus, 37, a native of Olney, Md.

Primus is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School – where she graduated summa cum laude in 2001– teaching criminal law, criminal procedure, and habeas corpus. Prior to teaching, she served for four years in the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, working as a trial lawyer and appellate litigator. Upon graduation from law school, she clerked for the Hon. Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Primus, a 1997 graduate of Brown University, also worked as a criminal investigator for the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C.

During Primus’ time as a public defender, Yale Kamisar – the Clarence Darrow Distinguished University Professor of Law Emeritus and Primus’ mentor – and Evan Caminker – the dean of the U-M Law School and Branch Rickey Collegiate Professor of Law – asked her if she would like to teach criminal procedure at her alma mater, where she was an editor for The Michigan Law Review, a board member for the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition, and the winner of the Henry M. Bates Memorial Scholarship Award – the highest honor you can achieve at U-M Law School.

“Originally, I thought I’d stay for a year-and-a-half to see if I liked it. Turns out, I really loved the job and what it allowed me to do in terms of pro bono work. I can still have cases while working with students,” explained Primus, who has taught law for seven years and was awarded the L. Hart Wright Prize for Outstanding Teaching by the Law School Student Senate in 2009.

She is married to fellow law faculty member Richard Primus, 43, who teaches constitutional law. The couple lives in Ann Arbor and has two young children. They are expecting their third child in November.

Kamisar has been one of the lead authors of “Modern Criminal Procedure” – considered the definitive criminal procedural casebook in American legal education – since its first edition debuted 47 years ago, writing about pre-trial witness identification and the right to counsel. Kamisar wrote this casebook with fellow authors and legal scholars Wayne LaFave and Jerry Israel.

“As they began to think about retirement, they had an agreement that each one of them could pick a successor to take over their parts of the casebook. (Kamisar) approached me a year-and-a-half ago and asked me to be his successor on the book,” said Primus.

So far, Primus has written two chapters about pre-trial witness identification and the right to counsel in the 13th edition of “Modern Criminal Procedure,” which is now in circulation.

“Over time, I will slowly inherit other chapters from him when he wants to give them up,” she said. “One of the challenges about writing a casebook is that you are giving comprehensive treatment to your area of expertise while at the same time trying to make it accessible to all kinds of different students and professors. You have to present it in ways that are understandable and interesting for both students and professors. You also have to condense a large amount of material.”

Primus was no stranger to “Modern Criminal Procedure” when she inherited the chapters from Kamisar; she did research on the book for him when she was a law student.

Interestingly enough, Primus felt no pressure taking over some of her mentor’s writing chores.

“Maybe that’s surprising. One of the great things about working with co-authors is the sense of autonomy you have regarding the chapters,” she explained. “They’re available for consulting, and there’s a back-and-forth with them. However, I get the ultimate decision-making authority (regarding her two chapters).”