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A History of the Center of Civil Law Studies

by Professor Saúl Litvinoff

Professor Saúl Litvinoff

The Center was established in 1965 as a division of the then LSU Law School for the purpose of preserving and enhancing the civil law component of the Louisiana legal system. Although the Louisiana Civil Code, for a long time cornered by the challenging American common law, had won over the attention of the jurisprudence starting in the third decade of the Twentieth Century, there was a dearth of civil law doctrine to help in the process of studying, understanding, and applying that code. Against such a background, the Center was created to promote the civil law scholarship necessary to give scientific and intellectual support to the revision and updating of the Louisiana Civil Code, a task by then already undertaken by the Louisiana State Law Institute, an advisory organ of the state legislature.

Professor Joseph Dainow, a distinguished scholar formed as a civilian in his native province of Quebec in Canada, was the first director of the Center and, during his term, the writing of treatises on the law of property and the law of obligations were started, as well as translations of important works of French doctrine such as Baudry-Lacantinerie’s treatise on the law of successions, and seminars for judges, and also for practitioners, were offered with success.

The first director retired in 1975, and Professor Saúl Litvinoff was appointed to succeed him. Along the budgetary bonanza of the seventh and eighth decades of the Twentieth Century, the Center of Civil Law Studies of the LSU Law Center enjoyed an increase of its personnel by the addition of an assistant to the director, a translator, a historian, and research associates. During that period several volumes of the ongoing treatises were finished, and books on jurisprudence, Louisiana substantive law, and numerous monographs saw the light.

At the end of the state and university budgetary bonanza entailed by the crisis of the oil industry in following decades of the same century, the Center of Civil Law Studies suffered casualties in its personnel that for many years was reduced to the director, a research assistant, and a secretary who made efforts to continue the much needed scholarly work.

The Twenty-first Century blessed the LSU Law Center with an important bequest that Chancellor John Costonis decided to invest in giving new life to the Center of Civil Law Studies, and also in establishing a chair of excellence, named after the donor, the holder of which would become the new director of the reborn center.

Professor Olivier Moréteau came from France to occupy the Senator Russell Long Chair of Excellence and assume the direction of the LSU Law Center of Civil Law Studies. The vast renown of Professor Moréteau in the civil law and also the common law worlds makes him especially suitable to bring the Center to the attention of the international legal community as a crucible where different legal systems converge, and the law of the future is in the making with a global tinge.