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SMU Dedman Law

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Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Richard R. Lee Endowed Professor of Law

Email: ethornbu@mail.smu.edu

Phone: 214-768-2613

Web: http://sites.google.com/site/beththornburg


B.A., 1976, College of William and Mary
J.D., 1979, Southern Methodist University

Dean Thornburg teaches and writes in the area of civil procedure and alternative dispute resolution. Drawing on her experience with civil rights and commercial litigation, her scholarship focuses on the procedural fairness of the litigation process, especially at the pleadings, discovery, and jury charge stages. She also writes and speaks in the areas of comparative procedure, online dispute resolution, and the intersection of law and culture.

Dean Thornburg's articles have appeared in law reviews at Virginia, U.C. Davis, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin, Duke, Fordham, Oregon, Missouri, Houston, Edinburgh, and SMU. She is the co-author (with Professor Dorsaneo) of a study guide for Civil Procedure and two Texas procedure casebooks, and has contributed chapters to books on civil procedure issues in consumer law, sports law, computer law, and classic civil procedure cases.

She teaches Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Complex Litigation, Texas procedure, Remedies, and an advanced procedure seminar. Thornburg has visited at the law schools at William & Mary, University of Edinburgh, and, most recently, West Virginia University where she held the John T. Copenhaver Visiting Chair.

In 2013, SMU selected Thornburg to receive the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award, an award established by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church for the purpose of recognizing outstanding faculty members for their dedication and contributions to the learning arts and to the institution.  Dean Thornburg served as Director of Center for Teaching Excellence from 2012-2014.

Primary Articles

A Community of Procedure Scholars:  Teaching Procedure and the Legal Academy, 51 Osgoode Hall L. Rev. 93 (2013).

Defining Civil Disputes:  Lessons from Two Jurisdictions, 35 Melbourne U. L. Rev. 208 (2011) (with Cameron) (Peer reviewed) (cited by Federal Court of Australia, Case Management Handbook 25 (Oct. 2011).

Reaping What We Sow: Anti-Litigation Rhetoric, Limited Budgets, and Declining Support for Civil Courts, 30 Civil Justice Quarterly 74 (2011).

Saving Civil Justice, 84 Tulane L. Rev. 247 (2010) (review essay of Hazel Genn, Judging Civil Justice).

The Managerial Judge Goes to Trial, 44 U. Rich. L. Rev. 101 (2010).

Law, Facts, and Power, 114 Penn St. L. Rev. Penn Statim 1 (2010).

The Curious Appellate Judge: Ethical Limits on Independent Research, 28 Rev. Lit. 133 (2008).

Judicial Hellholes, Lawsuit Climates and Bad Social Science: Lessons from West Virginia, 110 W.VA. L. Rev. - (2008). 

Designer Trials, 2006 J. Dispute Res. 181 (invited contribution for symposium on Vanishing Trial Project).

Just Say "No Fishing": The Lure of Metaphor, 40 U. Mich. J. L. Reform 1 (2006).

Contracting with Tortfeasors: Mandatory Arbitration Clauses and Personal Injury Claims, 65 Law & Contemp. Probs. 253-278 (2003) (invited symposium contribution).

Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control: Lessons from the ICANN Dispute Resolution Process, 7 Journal of Small & Emerging Business 191 (2001) (Reprinted in 6 Computer Law & Technology Journal 89 (2001).

Going Private: Technology, Due Process, and Internet Dispute Resolution, 34 University of California Davis Law Review 151 (2000) [Reprinted in part in John Rothchild, Margaret Jane Radin & Gregory M. Silverman, INTERNET COMMERCE: THE EMERGING FRAMEWORK (2001)].

Giving the "Haves" a Little More: Considering the 1998 Discovery Proposals, 52 SMU Law Review 229 (1999) [a portion of this article is reprinted in Brodin, Subrin, Main & Minow, CIVIL PROCEDURE: DOCTRINE, PRACTICE & CONTEXT (2000)].

Metaphors Matter: How Images on Battle, Sports, and Sex Shape the Adversary System, 10 Wis. Women's Law Journal 225 (1995) [a portion of this article is reprinted as a chapter in Davis, Mathewson & Shropshire, SPORTS AND THE LAW: A MODERN ANTHOLOGY (1999)].

The Power and the Process: Instructions and the Civil Jury, 66 Fordham Law Review 1837 (1998).


LAWTALK (Yale U. Press) (with Galanter, Shapiro, and Clapp) (2011) (excerpts from reviews posted on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/030017246X).
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: CIVIL PROCEDURE (LexisNexis 3d ed. 2012) (with Dorsaneo) (and prior editions).

TEXAS CIVIL PROCEDURE: PRE-TRIAL LITIGATION 2013-2014 (with Dorsaneo, Carlson, and Crump) (and prior editions).
TEXAS CIVIL PROCEDURE: TRIAL AND APPELLATE PRACTICE 2013-14 (with Dorsaneo, Carlson, and Crump) (and prior editions).


National Judicial Ethics Workshop for U.S. Bankruptcy Judges (April  & August 2013).

Lessons from Lawtalk, SMU Town & Gown (April 2013).

Digital Humanities: Implications for Teaching, Futures for Humanistic Learning Research Cluster, Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute (October 2012).

Private as Public and Public as Private: U.S. MTBE Litigation, Law & Society Conference, June 2012 (part of Global Class Actions Research Group).

Judicial Research on the Internet Outside the Record, National Workshop for U.S. Magistrate Judges (April & July 2012).

Panelist, Ethics and Judicial Research, Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference (May 2011).

Invited Participant, Teaching Civil Procedure in Common Law Countries Project (England, June 2010).

The Rhetoric of Tort Reform: Considering the U.S. and Australia, Sydney Law School (March 2010).

Manipulating Public Perception of Law and Courts, University of Melbourne Law School (March 2010).

Presenter, Faculty Workshop, WVU College of Law, West Virginia and the Hellholes Project, (March 2008).

Presenter, Faculty Workshop, Cornell Law School, Continuity and Change on the Border of Law and Culture (November 2007).

Presenter, Faculty Colloquium, Northeastern University School of Law, Interactions of Law and Popular Culture (October 2007).

Panelist, ABA National Symposium on the American Jury System (2006).

Speaker, Comparative Pre-Proof Procedure: An American View, Law Society of Scotland (2003).

Visiting Fellow, ADR and Internet Disputes, AHRB Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law, University of Edinburgh (2003).


The Lure of the Internet: The Limits on Judicial Fact Research, Litigation, 40 (Summer/Fall 2012).

The Story of Lassiter: The Importance of Counsel in an Adversary System, in CIVIL PROCEDURE STORIES (Kevin Clermont, ed. 2004).

Paths to Justice and Paths to Justice Scotland, 7 Edinburgh Law Review 123 (Jan. 2003).

Privatization and Power: Dispute Resolution for the Internet, in CONSUMER’S ACCESS TO JUSTICE: INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES (Ricketts & Telford, eds.)(Cambridge University Press 2003) (Ricketts, Stapleton, Telford & Skinnon eds, Cambridge University Press 2002).

Detailed Fact Pleading: The Lessons of Scottish Civil Procedure, 36 International Lawyer 1185 (2002).

The Tyranny of Act Pleadings: Is Too Much Too Soon a Roadblock to Justice?, Issue 296 Scolag Law Journal 105 (June 2002) (reprinted in January 2003 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland).

Book Review, ADR IN COMMERCIAL DISPUTES, - International Journal of Law & Information Technology 240 (2002).