Former director of Wayne Land Bank joins faculty at MSU College of Law


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A new face on the faculty of Michigan State University College of Law this fall, Daniel Rosenbaum is teaching Local Government, Property, and Land Use and Land Use Inequities.

“I’m very excited to join MSU Law,” he says. “The faculty is warm, welcoming, and very engaged as scholars and teachers. The students have already impressed me with their interest in local government—I’m thrilled by the strong enrollment numbers for the course this fall. And MSU offers tremendous resources, with great research support—including interdisciplinary opportunities across the university—and teaching opportunities that fit my interests and experiences perfectly.”

Property is ultimately about how we interact with past and future generations, he notes.

“Property often outlives people,” Rosenbaum says. “How we construct this field of law speaks to how our society sees itself across time.

“Local government is also the place with the most day-to-day impact on people’s lives, and the decisions made by local bureaucrats are impactful even if nobody is watching them.”

Rosenbaum previously spent two years as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Detroit Mercy Law, where he taught in the Dual U.S./Canadian J.D. program with the University of Windsor. He also served on the Dual J.D. Admissions Committee, Curriculum Committee, and was a Reading Group instructor and Bar Exam mentor. In addition, he was the Law Review note adviser, and served as editor of the Michigan Real Property Law Review, a position he still holds.
He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience with students.

“Law students are really passionate and insightful, and I enjoy working with them to find excitement and meaning in the material,” he says. “I also appreciate when students make me think – and make their classmates think – about something none of us had considered before.

“Students are future practitioners, and the legal field needs more dedicated, diligent, and principled lawyers in property and local government.  How today’s students learn impacts how the law develops tomorrow, which gives a lot of meaning to my teaching.”

Rosenbaum launched his own academic trajectory with a magna cum laude undergrad degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis. His interest in the past stemmed from the experience of his grandfather, who studied history in college in the 1940s and faced restrictive quotas when trying to pursue a Ph.D. in history.

Rosenbaum also enjoyed history books in boyhood, spending hours poring over old maps and pictures.

“I was particularly interested in places and maps and how they change over time,” he says. “Studying history really means studying human stories, and reading letters in an archive is a way to understand regular people who happened to live in a different era and who shaped and were shaped by it.”

His interest in law—and in particular, property and local government law—arose from his fascination with history. In undergrad, his college thesis, “Sacred Landscapes: The Emergence of the Neighborhood School Ideology and the Failure of Public School Integration in Benjamin Willis’ Chicago,” examined how the Chicago Board of Education came to embrace the principle of neighborhood schooling in the 1960s.

“I came away impressed by how small corners of local government can be so impactful, for better and for worse, and can also change so much over time and how small-scale government decisions impact where people live and how neighborhoods change too,” he says. “Coupled with my general interest in research, I was drawn to law from there.”

Rosenbaum earned his juris doctor from Harvard Law School where he was awarded the Dean’s Scholar Prize for “Revitalizing America’s Cities,” served as an editor for the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review; and editor for Harvard CityLaw; and was involved in law and local government groups. His research was “Relative Decay: TIF Development and the Suburbanized Blighting Test in Greater St. Louis.”

After graduation and clerking for a year, Rosenbaun spent two years as general counsel for the Wayne County Land Bank, and two years as its executive director. The governmental authority manages distressed public property in the Detroit region and assists local municipalities on issues of divestment, land ownership, and development.

He notes it was a challenging place to work as a matter of both property and local government.  

“On the property side, we mostly owned vacant public parcels that nobody else wanted, meaning they were difficult to re-purpose but also causing externalities in their local communities, a status quo we wanted to change,” he says.

“On the local government side, the Land Bank sat politically between a number of governments in Wayne County—between the county itself, the municipalities and townships, other special purpose districts, and even other land banks—which offered important chances to collaborate but also forced us to navigate political conflicts. I enjoyed confronting these challenges, trying to think creatively about them, and learning about obscure but important corners of law and government in the process.”

Rosenbaum’s academic works in 2022 include “A Legal Map of New Local Parkland,” “Reforming Local Property for an Era of National Decline,” and “Confronting the Local Land Checkerboard,”; and his 2020 work, “Towards Mission Creep: Fragmented Local Governance in the Face of Crisis.”

He has given presentations to the AALS (Association of American Law Schools), ALPS (Association of Law, Property, and Society), International and Comparative Urban Law Conference, and National Governors Association, and was interviewed on WXYZ-TV Channel 7 in Detroit a couple of times last year.

His volunteer work includes conducting title review of properties in the pipeline for the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, and reviewing legal documents; and research projects on national railroads in a couple European countries for the World Jewish Restitution Organization.

The Chicago native currently makes his home in Ann Arbor with his wife, Taryn Surtees, a physician. The couple has an 11-year-old Terrier mix named Atticus. In his leisure time, Rosenbaum enjoys running, cycling, tea, Midwestern cities, and maps.


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