International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Summer 2012 Issue

Leading Figures in International Law


Arthur von Mehren (United States)

Arthur von Mehren

By: Carolyn A. Dubay, Associate Editor, International Judicial Monitor

Arthur von Mehren was undoubtedly the preeminent American scholar in comparative and private international law of the last century.  A well-loved and distinguished professor at Harvard Law School for more than 50 years, von Mehren died in 2006 at the age of 83. 

Von Mehren was born in Minnesota in 1922 and went on to graduate from Harvard College in 1942 and Harvard Law School in 1945.  He received his doctorate in government from Harvard in 1946.  Following his graduation, von Mehren spent three years studying law in Germany, France and Switzerland before returning to Harvard Law School to join the law faculty.  Because of his scholarly accomplishments, especially in the area of comparative law and conflicts of law, Professor von Mehren assumed Harvard Law School’s Story Professorship in 1976 and carried on in that position throughout his career, becoming the Story Professor of Law Emeritus in 1991.  During his tenure at Harvard, Professor von Mehren also founded the Joseph Story Fellowship program to sponsor rising German scholars to serve as his research assistants for one-year periods.

Professor von Mehren was a prolific scholar and authored more than 200 publications, including 10 books, in multiple languages.   One his most definitive works was his comparative study of German and American civil procedure.  In addition to his scholarly contributions to the development of international and comparative law, von Mehren was instrumental in the development of international conventions to address growing problems in private international law relating to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.  In 1966, von Mehren was appointed by the U.S. State Department to the American delegation to the Hague Conference on Private International Law.  His 38 years of work with the Hague Conference culminated in the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, which the United States entered into in 2005.

Beyond private international law, Professor von Mehren left an indelible mark on the development and understanding of comparative law.  He was a founding member and past president of the American Society of Comparative Law, and served as a member of the first editorial board of the American Journal of Comparative Law in 1952.  Professor von Mehren also served on the editorial committee of the International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law. 

As a testament to his achievements in international and comparative law, Professor von Mehren was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Government, the Canada Prize from the International Academy of Comparative Law, and the Leonard J. Theberge Award from the International Law Section of the American Bar Association.  He was further awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of Leuven and Paris II, Panthéon-Assas.  Professor von Mehren also served as a member of the Institute de droit international, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the International Academy of Comparative Law.

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© 2012 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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