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Suzianne Painter-Thorne

Professor Suzianne Painter-Thorne

  Professor of Law



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  • Evidence
  • Indian Law
  • Legal Research & Writing
  • Property Law
  • J.D. (Order of the Coif), University of California, Davis, School of Law, 2002
  • B.A. (with high honors, Anthropology), University of Maryland, College Park, 1999

Professor Painter-Thorne teaches Client Counseling, Evidence, Legal Writing, and Property. In addition to teaching, she has coached several moot court teams throughout her thirteen years at Mercer.

Professor Painter-Thorne’s scholarship focuses on the intersection of law and culture, with particular emphasis on American Indian law. Her recent publications include: Fraying the Knot: Marital Property, Probate, and Practical Problems with Tribal Marriage Bans, 84 Brooklyn L. Rev. __ (2020); A Strange Kind of Identity Theft: How Competing Definitions of “Indian” May Deny Individual Identity, 14 Conn. Pub. Int. L.J. 29 (2014); Tangled Up in Knots: How Continued Federal Jurisdiction over Sexual Predators on Indian Reservations Hobbles Effective Law Enforcement to the Detriment of Indian Women, 41 New Mexico L. Rev. 239 (2011); If You Build it, They Will Come: Preserving Tribal Sovereignty in the Face of Indian Casinos & the New Premium on Tribal Membership, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 311 (2010); One Step Forward, Two Giant Steps Back: How the “Existing Indian Family” Exception (Re)Imposes Anglo American Legal Values on American Indian Tribes to the Detriment of Cultural Autonomy, 33 Am. Indian L. Rev. 329 (2009); Contested Objects, Contested Meanings: Native American Grave Protection Laws and the Interpretation of Culture, 35 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1261 (2002). She has also written about legal writing, including 7 Virtues of Appellate Brief Writing: An Update from the Bench, 38 SW. L. Rev. 221 (2008), co-authored with the Honorable Harry Pregerson.

She is the co-author of two books, Legal Writing, co-authored with Professors Richard K. Neumann, Jr., and Sheila Simon (4th ed., Wolters Kluwer 2019), and the Moot Court Workbook, co-authored with Professor Karen Sneddon (Aspen 2017).

Her current works-in-progress include Hey, Did I Just Marry My House? Habendum Clauses in Marriage Vows and Property Conveyances, which examines the particular the language of deeds and its similarity to marriage vows, and Fraying the Knot: Practical Problems with Tribal Marriage Bans and the Adoption of Indian Children.

Professor Painter-Thorne is on the executive committees of the AALS section on Property Law and the AALS section on Law and Anthropology. She is co-editor of the Law & Rhetoric eJournal and past managing editor of Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD. She served as the Legal Writing Institute’s Host School Director from 2014 to 2018.

After graduating from law school, Professor Painter-Thorne was a litigation associate at Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe in Sacramento, California. She then served as a law clerk to the Honorable Harry Pregerson on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before joining the Mercer faculty in 2006. Professor Painter-Thorne is a member of the American Constitution Society, Association of Legal Writing Directors, the Legal Writing Institute, and the Society for American Law Teachers.

Professor Painter-Thorne received her J.D. (Order of the Coif) from the University of California, Davis, School of Law and her undergraduate degree with high honors in anthropology from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a member of the California State Bar.

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