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Melanie Leslie Named Cardozo Dean

First Woman Dean of Cardozo Law, and First Cardozo Graduate Appointed

President Richard M. Joel has announced the appointment of Melanie Leslie as dean of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law effective July 1. She will be the seventh dean of the law school, the first woman and the first Cardozo graduate to serve in the position.

Melanie Leslie Melanie Leslie has been appointed dean of Cardozo

Leslie is currently the vice dean and a professor of law at Cardozo, where she has been teaching since 1995. As vice dean, she oversaw the introduction of new professional concentrations to the curriculum, worked closely with Dean Matthew Diller to expand Cardozo’s renowned intellectual property program to include initiatives on technology and data law, and oversaw the launch of the Fashion, Arts, Media, & Entertainment Law Center (FAME) this spring.

“When Cardozo Law was created, its unique mission was to enhance the legal world and beyond by producing leaders who embrace and perpetuate timeless values,” said President Joel. “In appointing Dean Leslie from among its graduates, we have exceeded our highest ambitions.”

Leslie is a leading scholar in trusts and estates law, and is an expert in fiduciary duties in the trust, and corporate and nonprofit governance. As a professor of law, she teaches Property, Trusts and Estates, Charity Governance, and Evidence. She is the coauthor of a leading casebook, Estates and Trusts, Cases and Materials, as well as Concepts and Insights: Trusts and Estates. A prolific scholar, Leslie has had articles published in the NYU Law Review, Boston College Law Review, Florida Law Review, William & Mary Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, and the Indiana Law Journal. She is widely respected for her excellent teaching skills and engagement with the student body, and has been presented the “Best First-Year Professor” award by three Cardozo classes.

“There is an unmistakable energy at Cardozo and I look forward to advancing the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of this remarkable law school,” said Leslie. “It is an honor to lead Cardozo’s world-class faculty and vibrant community of students and alumni, and to serve the institution that has given me so much.”

Leslie has been a visiting associate professor of law at New York University School of Law and a visiting professor of law at Columbia Law School. She is a member of the NY State Bar and NYC Bar Joint Committee on the Uniform Trust Code, a Legal Fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estates Counsel (ACTEC), and is on the Executive Committee of the AALS Section on Nonprofits and Philanthropy.

Before joining the Cardozo faculty, Leslie clerked for New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary S. Stein. She was a summer associate at both Debevoise & Plimpton and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton before she joined the firm of McCarter & English as an associate in the commercial litigation department.

Leslie earned her B.A. from the University of Oregon with honors, and a J.D. from Cardozo magna cum laude in 1991, where she was executive editor of the Cardozo Law Review. She has been actively engaged with alumni, the Cardozo Board of Overseers, and the leadership of Yeshiva University.

Leslie will succeed Matthew Diller, who is stepping down after serving as Cardozo’s dean for six years. Cardozo Board of Overseers Chair David Samson '93C, president of the Miami Marlins and member of the search committee, remarked, “Dean Diller’s tenure has been both distinguished and distinctive. Melanie Leslie is an exceptional choice to build on Cardozo’s outstanding programming and traditions.”

Yeshiva University Provost Selma Botman chaired the rigorous nation-wide search for the new dean. “The committee was truly impressed with the candidates and the high level of interest from across the country,” said Botman. “At the end of the day, however, there was overwhelming faculty support for Dean Leslie, which was also shared by students who provided input to the committee.”

The search committee included former Cardozo dean Professor David Rudenstine; David Samson; Andrew Lauer, Vice President for Legal Affairs, Secretary and General Counsel of Yeshiva University; Cardozo Board of Overseers member Zahava Straus '80C; Cardozo faculty members Michelle Adams, Richard Bierschbach, Leslie Salzman, and Stewart Sterk; Dean of Admissions David Martinidez; Dean of Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business Moses L. Pava; and Chair of the Executive Committee of the Cardozo Alumni Association Alissa Makower '92C, vice president and senior counsel at CBS Corporation.