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Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law

About Us

Mission Statement

CERL is a non-partisan interdisciplinary institute dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the rule of law in twenty-first century warfare and national security. The only Center of its kind housed within a law school, CERL draws from the study of law, philosophy, and ethics to answer the difficult questions that arise in times of war and contemporary transnational conflicts. It represents the vision of its founder and director, Professor Claire Finkelstein, in uniting scholars and policymakers from various fields in a multi-disciplinary conversation on some of the most challenging issues of our time.

How CERL is Unique

Embracing the need for legal scholarship that addresses issues of national security while providing moral justification for legal positions, CERL stands out as a leader in a small community by dedicating events and scholarship solely to national security and its relationship to the rule of law. While some institutes have significantly contributed to research on rule of law issues, they focus on the criminal justice system. Other centers specialize in areas of national security, but do not put a strong emphasis on the pressing ethical issues relating to national security. CERL is unique in bringing together research regarding rule of law and national security issues to one world renowned university.

In order to encourage interdisciplinary scholarship, the Center’s approach to ethics and legal theory does not appeal to any particular doctrine or locate itself within any single field of study. Rather, CERL embraces diversity in thought and seeks the experience of professionals and scholars from a variety of backgrounds. CERL’s commitment to practical moral questions requires that no matter what school of ethics or legal theory one adheres, they must be able to bridge theory and practice. More than a forum for only legal scholars and philosophers, CERL events create an open and pluralistic environment for intellectual exchange and career development across many disciplines at a time when informed understanding and societal improvement is more critical than ever before.

CERL’s Impact

CERL is well positioned to have a positive impact on policy at the national level. With an Executive Board comprised of top academics and practitioners at the highest echelons, CERL increasingly engages policy-makers involved in cutting edge decisions in both government and the private sector. CERL events regularly attract military leaders, both domestic and foreign, prominent practitioners from the intelligence community, as well as military and civilian lawyers who have served or are currently serving the Administration in a variety of roles. 

Beyond maintaining relationships with active practitioners, CERL solicits the expertise of scholars in a variety of academic fields, such as philosophy, political science, psychology, medicine, and engineering, among others. Additionally, CERL collaborates with actors in the private sector to understand the challenges faced by executives in the global defense industry. Establishing, maintaining, and expanding its network of relationships across many fields is the key to CERL’s success. Read CERL’s 2012-2014 Biennial Report.