Nell Jessup Newton served as the tenth dean for Notre Dame Law School from July 2009 to July 2019. She has been a leader in legal education for more than 20 years, having served on a number of committees examining legal education issues for the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Law School Admission Council. She was a member of the Board of Trustees for the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education from 2006 to 2018 and served as chair from 2014 to 2016. She is a prominent scholar of Indian Law and the editor-in-chief of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, the only treatise on the subject.
Under her direction, Notre Dame increased the size of the Law School faculty through lateral and entry-level hires and built curricular strengths in business and international law as well as intellectual property. The Law School also launched a Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, a Community Development Clinic, and an Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic that has been certified by the U.S.P.T.O. for patent and trademark cases, and eight new programs of study that allow students to develop an expertise in special areas of law and policy.
Newton oversaw the development of a three-year J.D./MBA dual degree and four new interdisciplinary programs that enrich the study of law by incorporating insights from other disciplines. During her tenure, the Law School also expanded its LLM program to include foreign lawyers who wish to study in South Bend as well as in London.
Internationally, Newton worked with the Law School’s London Law Centre to open the school’s London program to students interested in spending a single semester in the UK as well as to those who are able to participate in full-year and summer programs. As part of an expansion of the international curriculum that includes a program of study in global law, the law school has also entered into student exchange programs in partnership with the Peking and Tsinghua University law schools in China, the Pontifical University of Chile, Bocconi University in Italy, Trinity School of Law in Dublin, and the University of Lucerne School of Law in Switzerland.
Under her leadership, the Law School doubled externship offerings and developed externship programs based in the Law School’s facilities in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The programs enable Notre Dame students to live, work, and study in either Chicago or the nation’s capital. On the administrative side, Newton has worked to expand the Career Development Office to help students better plan and achieve their career goals and worked with the school’s Law Advisory Council to increase the school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program by more than 500 percent while also increasing student fellowship awards.
She continues her work in legal education at NDLS as Professor of Law. Newton came to Notre Dame from U.C. Hastings College of Law where she was the Chancellor & Dean and William B. Lockhart Professor of Law. Previously she served as dean at the University of Connecticut School of Law and later at the University of Denver College of Law. Newton taught Contracts, Property, Constitutional Law, and American Indian Law at Catholic University Law School (1976–1992) and then at American University Law School (1992–1998). From 1990 to 1997 Newton also taught at the Pre-Law Summer Institute for Native American Students (PLSI) at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Newton is a leading scholar of American Indian law, especially as that field intersects with federal constitutional and property law, writing frequently cited law review articles on tribal property rights and rights to self-government. She was the co-author of the third edition of one of the leading textbooks on Indian Law, Cases & Materials on American Indian Law, and is the editor-in-chief of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, the only treatise on the subject. Her many law review articles have been reprinted in scholarly books on Indian law, race law, the law of reparations, and legal philosophy.
Newton earned her bachelor’s degree from U.C. Berkeley in humanities with an emphasis on ancient Greek, and her law degree from U.C. Hastings, where she was elected to the Thurston Society and the Order of the Coif and served as managing editor of the Hastings Law Journal. She is a life fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Connecticut Bar Foundation. She also served as an associate justice of the Yurok Tribal Supreme Court in 2008–2009.Publications