Anna di Robilant

Professor of Law

LLB, University of Torino School of Law
LLM, Harvard Law School
PhD, University of Trento (Italy)
SJD, Harvard Law School

Areas of Interest
Comparative Law, Legal History, Property Law

Professor Anna di Robilant is a property law scholar trained in both Europe and the United States. She writes and teaches in the areas of property law, property theory, legal history and comparative law.

di Robilant’s scholarship focuses on two main themes. The first theme is to question the idea, long shared by comparative law experts, that property law in Europe and the United States is fundamentally different. By contrast, di Robilant’s work suggests that modern Western property is the product of a “transatlantic dialogue” shaped by intellectual, professional, social, and economic factors. For example, in her article, “Abuse of Rights. The Continental Drug and the Common Law,” Professor di Robilant challenges the idea that the doctrine of “abuse of rights” is a peculiarity of civil law systems, absent in the common law and explores the reasons for the parallel, yet different, development of the doctrine in the two systems. Similarly, in “Property: A Bundle of Sticks or a Tree?, Professor di Robilant questions the idea that the “bundle of sticks” image of property is an American invention and examines the intellectual, political, and economic concerns that led European jurists, in the first half on the 20th century, to develop a new conceptualization of property as a “tree” that shares many of the intuitions of the “bundle of rights” approach and yet differs from it in significant ways.

The second theme in di Robilant’s property scholarship is designing property law institutions that reflect the values of a free and democratic society, committed to making access to fundamental resources, such as housing, water, cultural or natural resources, more equitable. In “Common Property and Equality of Autonomy,” di Robilant analyzes the challenges involved in the design of common ownership institutions, such as conservation land trusts, affordable-housing co-operatives, community gardens, neighborhood-managed parks, and proposes refocusing the design work on promoting greater “equality of autonomy.” Similarly, in “Property and Democratic Deliberation,” di Robilant examines a selection of recently created property forms which establish mechanisms of democratic and deliberative governance for resources as diverse as natural resources, scarce urban land, historic landmarks, or cultural institutions.

Professor di Robilant has a forthcoming article titled “Populist Property Law,” which retrieves long forgotten property forms developed by the “folk legal wisdom” of social movements representing farmers and workers in 19th century America who sought to expand access to land and agricultural credit. She is also working at a book on the history of property law in Europe.

Professor di Robilant is the chair of the Property section of the” Common Core of European Private Law,” a project that has brought together more than 200 legal scholars and practitioners to analyze and map the connections and underlying similarities in Contract, Property, and Torts laws across Europe. She received her JD from the University of Torino, Italy; her PhD in Comparative Private Law from the University of Trento, Italy, and her LLM and SJD from Harvard Law School.

di Robilant’s scholarly papers are available on her SSRN page.

  1. Anna di Robilant & Talha Syed, "Hohfeld in Europe and Beyond: The Fundamental Building Blocks of Social Relations Regarding Resources," in The Legacy of Wesley Hohfeld: Edited Major Works, Select Personal Papers, and Original Commentaries , Shyamkrishna Balganesh, Ted Sichelman & Henry E. Smith, eds., Cambridge University Press (forthcoming).
  2. Anna di Robilant, "Populist Property Law," 49 Connecticut Law Review 936 (2017).
    SSRN | Scholarly Commons
  3. Anna di Robilant, "Big Questions Comparative Law," in Symposium on Ran Hirschl's Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law, 96 Boston University Law Review 1325 (2016).
    Publisher | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  4. Texts and Contexts in Legal History: Essays in Honor of Charles Donahue, Anna di Robilant, John Witte & Sara McDougall, eds., Robbins Collection at the University of California at Berkeley (2016).
    Scholarly Commons
  5. Anna di Robilant, "Property and Deliberation: A New Type of Common Ownership," in Protecting Future Generations Through the Commons 61, Council of Europe Publishing (2014). Publisher
  6. Anna di Robilant, "Property and Democratic Deliberation: The Numerus Clausus Principle and Democratic Experimentalism in Property Law," 62 American Journal of Comparative Law 367 (2014).
    SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  7. Anna di Robilant, "Property: A Bundle of Sticks or a Tree?" 66 Vanderbilt Law Review 869 (2013).
    SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  8. Anna di Robilant, "Common Ownership and Equality of Autonomy," 58 McGill Law Journal 263 (2012).
    SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  9. Anna di Robilant, "The Virtues of Common Ownership," in Symposium Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do: A Public Lecture and Symposium on Michael J. Sandel's Recent Book: Panelist Papers, 91 Boston University Law Review 1359 (2011).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  10. Anna di Robilant, "Abuse of Rights: The Continental Drug and the Common Law," 61 Hastings Law Journal 687 (2010).
    SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  11. Antologia sul Femminismo Giuridico Statunitense, Anna di Robilant, Anna di Robilant, B. G Tedeschi & Fernanda Nicola, eds., Carocci (2008).
  12. Anna di Robilant, "Genealogies of Soft Law," 54 American Journal of Comparative Law 499 (2006).
    Westlaw | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  13. Anna di Robilant & Fernanda Nicola, "Il Liberalismo alle prese con Identita e Redistribuzione. Le Critiche della Sinistra Americana al Rights Discourse," Rivista Critica del Diritto Privato (2004).
  14. Anna di Robilant, "Scuole e Movimenti Post Realisti negli Stati Uniti d'America," in Novissimo Digesto: Appendice , UTET, Torino (2004).
  15. Anna di Robilant & Ugo Mattei, "The Art and Science of Critical Scholarship: Postmodernism and International Style in the Legal Architecture of Europe," 75 Tulane Law Review 1053 (2001).
    Westlaw | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  16. Anna di Robilant, "Non Soltanto Parole. In Margine ad Alcuni Itinerari di 'Law and Art’," 3 Materiali per una Storia della Cultura Giuridica (2001).

3 credits

This seminar is an introduction to comparative law's themes and methods. Accordingly, the seminar is organized in two parts. The readings selected for the first part present theoretical articulations and practical applications of the main methodological approaches relied upon by comparative lawyers. Participants will become acquainted with the "mechanics", as well as the broader implications, of the various ways of comparing: functionalism, structuralism, culturalism, postmodern neo-culturalism and critical comparative law. The materials discussed in the second part explore how these different methodologies play out in recent and heated comparative law debates. Participants will be asked to reflect over the common law-civil law dichotomy and its implications for the debate over the European Civil Code as well as for projects of harmonization, such as the World Bank's "Legal Origins" study; the circulation of legal rules and institutions and the export of constitutional models in Eastern Europe and Iraq; the ambiguous relation between US and European legal cultures and the debate over different ideas of "privacy"; the "West" and the "Orient" in family law reform. ** A student who fails to attend the initial meeting of a seminar (designated by an (S) in the title), or to obtain permission to be absent from either the instructor or the Registrar, may be administratively dropped from the seminar. Students who are on a wait list for a seminar are required to attend the first seminar meeting to be considered for enrollment.

FALL 2017: LAW JD 951 A1 , Sep 7th to Dec 7th 2017
Days Start End Credits Instructors Bldg
Thu 4:20 pm 6:20 pm 3 Anna di Robilant LAW
FALL 2018: LAW JD 951 A1 , Sep 6th to Dec 6th 2018
Days Start End Credits Instructors Bldg
Thu 4:20 pm 6:20 pm 3 Anna di Robilant

3 credits

This workshop-format seminar examines the interplay of law, constitutions, and culture from an historical perspective. The heart of the seminar is student engagement with works-in-progress by leading scholars in the history, theory, and culture of law, broadly understood. The first three class sessions will be devoted to developing the intellectual tools necessary for reading and engaging with such papers. Starting in week 4 of the semester, the class format will alternate between workshop sessions and more traditional seminar sessions. During the five workshop sessions, an invited scholar will present a current scholarly work-in-progress for discussion. Students will read the speaker's paper in advance and prepare discussion questions for the seminar. During the other sessions, the class will meet as a normal seminar, during which we will discuss readings related to the workshop papers and legal history more generally. The written work for the seminar will consist of a series of brief, critical essays in response to a student-selected subset of the workshop papers. LIMITED WRITING REQUIREMENT OPTION: A limited number of students may be permitted to satisfy the upper-class writing with this seminar. NOTE: This course is open to law students and to graduate students from other departments. A background in history is not a prerequisite. Graduate students from outside the law school may be able to receive 4 credits for this course. Please consult the professor regarding this option. ** A student who fails to attend the initial meeting of a seminar (designated by an (S) in the title), or to obtain permission to be absent from either the instructor or the Registrar, may be administratively dropped from the seminar. Students who are on a wait list for a seminar are required to attend the first seminar meeting to be considered for enrollment.

SPRG 2018: LAW JD 846 A1 , Jan 22nd to Apr 23rd 2018
Days Start End Credits Instructors Bldg
Mon 4:20 pm 6:20 pm 3 Anna di Robilant LAW
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