MSU professor devoted to the law and economics, committed to music and art

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Nicholas Mercuro, professor in residence at Michigan State University College of Law, is as passionate about the many interfaces between economics and the law as he is about music and art. The unique blend of interests is a result of his extensive experience at home and abroad.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Penn State University, and master’s degree in business administration from Seton Hall University, the New Jersey native obtained a doctorate in resource development from MSU.

 “It was in studying resource development at MSU – an interdisciplinary degree that raised many environmental, legal and economic issues – that I became enmeshed in the interface of economics and the law and the then emerging field of law and economics,” he says.

Following the completion of his Ph.D., Mercuro joined the economics faculty at the University of New Orleans (UNO), and later served as Associate Dean of its Division of International Education. During that time, he was also invited to join the adjunct faculty of nearby Tulane Law School, where, for eight years, he taught “The Economics of Legal Relationships” – later founding and serving as editor of a book series of the same name.

After several years of overseeing the UNO-University of Innsbruck summer school – which annually included some 250 to 275 college students from across America for a seven-week program at the University of Innsbruck – Mercuro headed to the University of Vienna in 1986 as a visiting professor at the Institute of Economic Theory; the following year Austrian Chancellor Dr. Bruno Kreisky named him to a two-year stint on the Kreisky Commission on Employment Issues in Europe.

A Fulbright Scholarship took Mercuro to the Free University of Berlin in 1993, where he taught and did research for two years, before heading back to Vienna as a visiting professor lecturing on ecology, law, and economics.

The following year saw him at the University of Hamburg as a research associate at the Erasmus Program in Law and Economics. He recently served as a guest professor in Provence, France where he spent a sabbatical lecturing at universities in Aix en Provence, Vienna, Paris, and Berlin.

After being awarded the MSU John A. Hannah Visiting Endowed Chair for Integrative Studies and named the Jeffrey N. and Kathryn C. Cole Professor-Honors College in 1996, Mercuro accepted a university-wide professorship at MSU in 1997. Five years later he was named Professor of Law in Residence at the College of Law, and more recently joined the faculty of James Madison College (JMC) at MSU.

 “In teaching law and economics to JMC or Law College students the challenge is to have them not only understand the many ways economics and the law interact, but to also have them appreciate the people and the ideas that have contributed to the various schools of thought that make up this discipline,” he says.

In addition to teaching and authoring/editing some nine books and a comprehensive five-volume encyclopedia in law and economics, he has authored many journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews in the field of law and economics; and also designed two MSU international summer programs: Law and Economics in London; and The Opera, Art and Language Program in Bregenz, Austria.

Since 2002, he has also organized several art exhibitions at the MSU College of Law.

“While some were of abstract paintings, other, more recent exhibitions have been devoted to specific public policy and legal issues which, when presented, try to provide a pretext and context to promote dialogue and begin discussions,” he says.

A recent 2010 exhibition “1989 – Year of Miracles: Austria and the End of the Cold War,” tied in with his international experiences.

Last year, Mercuro – together with John P. Beck of the MSU School of Labor and Industrial Relations – organized campus-wide events dedicated to a discussion of “Economic Justice.”

“The centerpiece, a photography exhibit ‘Faces from an American Dream’ by photographer, essayist and poet, Martin Desht, showed how the American dream has been re-defined for skilled and unskilled workers alike,” he says.

Running concurrently was “The Presentation of Evidence as Art,” an exhibition of media images and legal graphics used in trials throughout the nation, assembled by Professor Karl Gude from the MSU School of Journalism and former Director of Information Graphics at Newsweek magazine. Other art exhibits have included Kerry Kennedy’s “Speak Truth To Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World”; Barry Scheck and Peter Neufield’s “Innocents,” a photographic exhibit by Taryn Simon; as well as “Islam in Detroit, Foundations, Forms, Futures”; and Ryan Reed’s “Displaced Sudan: The Cost of Silence.”