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Michael A. Newton

Professor of the Practice of Law
Professor of the Practice of Political Science
Director, Vanderbilt-in-Venice Program

Michael Newton is an expert on terrorism, accountability, transnational justice, and conduct of hostilities issues. Over the course of his career, he has published more than 90 books, articles, op-eds and book chapters. He has been an expert witness in terrorism related trials and was senior editor of the Terrorism International Case Law Reporter, a series published by Oxford University Press from 2007 to 2013. At Vanderbilt, he developed and teaches the innovative International Law Practice Lab, which provides expert assistance to judges and lawyers, governments and policy makers around the world. Under his leadership, Practice Lab students have completed projects supporting ongoing litigation in many parts of the world, international organizations such as the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Vienna and the Conduct and Disciplinary Office in New York, and foreign ministries in a number of nations. Under his supervision, Vanderbilt law students have provided legal and technical advice to the Public International Law Policy Group and the governments of Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Peru and other nations.

Professor Newton negotiated the "Elements of Crimes" document for the International Criminal Court, and coordinated the interface between the FBI and the ICTY while deploying into Kosovo to do the forensics fieldwork in support of the Milosevic indictment. As the senior advisor to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the U.S. State Department, Professor Newton implemented a wide range of policy positions related to the law of armed conflict, including U.S. support to accountability mechanisms worldwide. He was the senior member of the team that taught international law to the first group of Iraqis who began to think about accountability mechanisms and a constitutional structure in November 2000. He subsequently assisted Iraqi lawyers and jurists in drafting the Statute of the Iraqi High Tribunal and served as the International Law Adviser to the Iraqi Judicial Chambers from 2006 to 2008. Professor Newton has been deeply involved in advising Iraqi officials, victims, and civil society groups on legal issues associated with documentation and investigation of crimes committed by Da’esh on Iraqi soil beginning days after Yazidi victims fled towards Mount Sinjar. He served as the U.S. representative on the U.N. Planning Mission for the Sierra Leone Special Court and was a member of the Special Court academic consortium. He is an elected member of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law and a member of the International Bar Association. In addition to teaching the Practice Lab, he develops and coordinates externships and other educational opportunities for students interested in international legal issues and has supervised more than 150 such opportunities.

Professor Newton has served on the executive council of the American Society of International Law and on its Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the International Criminal Court. As an appointed expert, he supported the Task Force on Genocide Prevention established by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the U.S. Institute of Peace. He currently serves on the Advisory Board  of the ABA International Criminal Court Project. From January 1999 to August 2002, he served in the Office of War Crimes Issues, U.S. State Department. Professor Newton began his distinguished military career as an armor officer in the 4th Battalion, 68th Armor, Fort Carson, Colorado, until his selection for the Judge Advocate General's Funded Legal Education Program. As an operational military attorney, he served with the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina in support of units participating in Desert Storm. Following duty as the chief of operational law, he served as the group judge advocate for the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He deployed on Operation Provide Comfort to assist Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq, as well as a number of other exercises and operations. From 1993-95 he was reassigned as the brigade judge advocate for the 194th Armored Brigade (Separate), during which time he organized and led the human rights and rules of engagement education for all multinational forces and international police deploying into Haiti. He has taught international and operational law at the Judge Advocate General's School and Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, and taught international law at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Research Interests

International humanitarian law, international criminal law, special tribunals, terrorism/counterterrorism, national security law, human rights

Representative Publications

  • "How the International Criminal Court Threatens Treaty Norms," 49 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 371 (2016)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Charging War Crimes: Policy and Prognosis," Chapter 28 in The Law and Practice of the International Criminal Court: A Critical Account of Challenges and Achievements (Carsten Stahn editor, Oxford University Press, 2015)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • Prosecuting Maritime Piracy: Domestic Solutions to International Crimes, Cambridge University Press (2015) (with Michael P. Scharf and Milena Sterio)
    Full Text | WWW
  • Proportionality in International Law, Oxford University Press (2014)
    Full Text | WWW
  • "Evolving Equality: The Development of the International Defense Bar," 47 Stanford Journal of International Law 379 (2011) (Winner, International Association of Penal Law, American National Section Article of the Year Award 2011, Awarded for Scholarly Contribution to the Field)
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN
  • "The Quest for Constructive Complementarity," in The ICC and Complementarity: From Theory to Practice, (Cambridge University Press, 2011) (Carsten Stahn & Mohamed El Zeidy, eds.)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Illustrating Illegitimate Lawfare," 43 Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 255 (2011). Reprinted online by International Relations and Security Network, Zurich, Switzerland.
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN
  • "Why Criminal Culpability Should Follow the Critical Path: Reframing the Theory of ‘Effective Control,'" 40 Netherlands Yearbook of International Law 3 (2009 edition, 2010)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Exceptional Engagement: Protocol I and a World United Against Terror,” 42 Texas Journal of International Law 2 (2009)
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN
  • Enemy of the State: The Trial and Execution of Saddam Hussein, St. Martin's Press (Winner 2009 Book of the Year Award of the International Association of Penal Law, American National Section)