Faculty Profiles: Erin Daly
Professor Erin Daly conveys the value of creativity to future lawyers.
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Approaching the law with fairness
JohnCulhaneNationalJurist23Profs235 Featured as one of “23 Law Profs to take before you die” in the March 2011 issue of National Jurist magazine [ read the March 2011 news story ] that compiled a list of professors who “entertain, inspire and intrigue,” Professor John Culhane is always willing to examine complex political issues. He encourages his students to take the same path and “examine the law with an open mind.”

From the disproportionate compensation of national disaster victims to the unfair treatment of same-sex couples, Widener Professor John Culhane has one goal for his legal work—to examine political issues in a more equitable light.

In the wake of 9/11, the Public Health Law professor took special interest in the government’s victim compensation fund, exploring why federal funds were distributed to the families of 9/11 victims, but not to others who suffered similarly tragic losses. In this light, he examined the federal government’s failure to properly compensate those affected by the Katrina disaster.

Similarly, many areas of law treat same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples—from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to marriage rights to tort law. No matter what the issue, Culhane focuses on overall fairness and the effects of law on public health and policy.

“Most people would agree with the common sense proposition that similar cases should be treated similarly,” Culhane says. “It’s logic, policy and fairness, and that’s what I use to approach the law.”

Culhane uses that same methodology in the classroom, encouraging students to examine the law with an open mind. After 20 years of teaching, he’s especially fond of teaching first-year torts.

“It’s first-year students’ initial exposure to the law and how complex and interesting it all is,” Culhane says. “I love watching the process of their development.”

In addition to serving as the Director of Widener Law’s nationally recognized Health Law program, Professor Culhane is also a Lecturer at the Yale University School of Public Health and a Senior Research Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson University School of Population. He has written and spoken extensively on the rights of same-sex couples and was featured as an expert in a documentary film about disaster compensation as it relates to Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. He is a contributor to the online magazine Slate, a columnist for, and writes his own blog, WordinEdgewise.

Read the full National Jurist article, “23 Law Professors to Take Before You Die,” or download a PDF copy.