Photo: Robert J.  Desiderio

Robert J.  Desiderio

Professor Emeritus


  • B.S. 1963, St. Joseph's University (Pennsylvania)
  • J.D. 1966, Boston College
  • Member of the District of Columbia and New Mexico Bars

Contact Information

 Ph.: 505-277-0557
 Fax: 505-277-1597
 Office: 3245


Robert Desiderio joined the UNM law faculty in 1967. He served two terms as dean, from 1979-1985 and from 1997-2002. He now teaches each semester as an professor emeritus

He presently is vice-chair of the Educational Trust Board. He co-chaired the New Mexico Public School Capital Outlay Task Force and chaired the New Mexico Tax Study Committee. From 2003-2007 he was the Executive Director to the Con Alma Health Foundation. Also, while on leave from the law school in the late 1980s, he was director, and chair of the tax section, at Rodey, Dickson, Sloan, Akin & Robb, one of New Mexico’s largest law firms.

Desiderio served as UNM’s faculty representative to the National Collegiate Athletics Association and the former Western Athletic Conference. He also was the university’s acting vice president for academic affairs.

As dean, he worked tirelessly to improve the school. He led a massive fund-raising effort to build the $10 million Frederick M. Hart Addition, which opened in the fall of 2002, nearly doubling the size of the law school and a renovation of the older building. During his first term as dean, Desiderio increased the number of faculty, improving the student-faculty ratio. He worked to increase faculty salaries and established a successful annual fund-raising program.

His scholarship focuses on tax-exempt organizations, state and local taxation, personal property leasing, remedies, taxation of insular areas, and sports law. Courses he teaches are Contracts, Tax, Remedies, Commercial and Corporate Law.

Desiderio was a consultant to Southern New England School of Law. In 1978, he was a special legal consultant to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Legislature. In the 1990s, he returned to the Commonwealth as director of a pre-law program and as a consultant to the Director of Finance. He also taught in the pre-law program in 2005, 2010 and 2014.

Before joining the UNM law faculty, he worked for the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C.

Desiderio and his wife, Anne, have raised eight children and have cared for 110 foster children during the past 20 years.


Contracts I

In an industrial society characterized by a "free enterprise" system and notions of individual freedom, "contract" is one of the primary means by which private individuals order their affairs. The contracts course inquires into why promises are enforced as contracts, which promises are enforced, and how they are enforced. The course places emphasis on close and critical analyses of court decisions.

Federal Income Tax

The goals of the course are for the student to acquire: (1) a broad perspective as to the application and impact of the federal income tax in a variety of transactions; (2) practice in using the legal materials of taxation, especially the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations; and (3) an understanding of the policies underlying various IRC provisions, i.e., how the tax system is used to influence behavior and thus promote various social and economic policies.

Negotiable Instruments

Course Description

This course studies written instruments which represent money, such as promissory notes and drafts (e.g., checks), as well as guaranties and letters of credit. If certain requirements are satisfied, the person in possession of a note or draft may have superior rights to the transferor and may be able to enforce payment even though the obligor has defenses which would have been effective under contract law. The law with respect to notes and drafts is codified in Articles 3 and 4 of the Uniform Commercial Code, and the course emphasizes problem-solving under these provisions.

The course examines the formal requirements that a note or draft must meet to be deemed negotiable, how the negotiable instrument is negotiated to a holder, and the requirements which the holder must satisfy to be deemed a holder in due course, the bona fide purchaser of commercial paper. The focus then shifts to the various types of liability which may arise on commercial paper: contract, warranty, and tort. The course examines the rights and liabilities of various parties when commercial paper contains forgeries or alterations.

The course also examines the checking account payment system, the bank collection process, and the rights and liabilities of banks and their customers. The course will consider the evolution of alternative payments systems, including the credit-card system, debit cards, wire-transfers, stored-value cards, and electronic money and commerce on the internet, as well as various closed, locally-based payment systems.


Course Description

Parties generally do not sue (or seek arbitration) just to have the court declare they were right.  They seek some form of relief.  Remedies studies the different forms that relief may take.   In other words, Remedies is concerned with the “bottom line” of a lawsuit.  Remedies also addresses the litigation strategy that complainants may, or should, pursue in attaining that relief.

Any relief necessarily must relate to the interest protected by the underlying claim on which a party sues.  Those claims are based in contract, tort, unjust enrichment, or breach of fiduciary duty.  The study of Remedies therefore, will show the relationship between the different claims and possible relief.  Thus, studying Remedies allows you to connect the substantive theories you have studied (e.g. contracts and torts and those theories based on contracts and torts) with different forms of relief.  Unlike your substantive courses, which concentrated on the substantive theories, Remedies focuses on the possible relief with substantive theories as the backdrop. Remedies is a good course to view the “forest”, that is, all the trees that go to make up civil litigation.

The different types of relief covered by the course include: Damages, Restitution, and Equitable Remedies of Injunction, Specific Performance, Constructive Trust, Accounting, and Equitable Lien.  While reviewing these remedies, we will concentrate on which is the preferable remedy, considering the harm that the plaintiff has suffered.

Sales of Goods

In this course we will study Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which covers the Sale of Goods. In your contracts class, you have already looked at some of the sections governing warranties and contract formation. We will expand on these topics and look at such questions as the obligations of the seller and the buyer, remedies, anticipatory breach, conditions, the parole evidence rule, etc. In addition, we will look briefly at the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods. Because the United States is a signatory to that Convention, it is the law in New Mexico governing the sale of goods to Canada and Mexico, and in some circumstances, it overrides the Uniform Commercial Code.

The focus of this course will be practical and we will spend time drafting contracts for the sale of goods. The skills you learn in this context will be useful for drafting all types of contracts.

There will be a final exam.

State and Local Tax

Lawyers who practice in the business and tax areas should be well versed in state taxation. This is especially true in a state like New Mexico where State taxation raises more issues and has as much, or more, affect on planning transactions, than federal taxation.

The State and Local Taxation course will address state tax issues by having students study those issues from both practice and policy perspectives. The course also will focus on statutory construction.

During the initial 4 to 6 classes, class discussions will deal with policy, constitution and overview of taxing systems. Understanding tax policy principles is essential to understanding any taxation, especially state taxation. Because state taxing powers are limited by the commerce and due process clauses of the Constitution, the course will review the relevant court decisions dealing with the constitutional limitations imposed on a state’s jurisdiction to tax, providing the test or standards given to us by the Supreme Court.

The course then will revolve around problems that I will hand out. The problems, which will be the basis for assignment, will involve current issues impacting New Mexico gross receipts and corporate income taxes. Although we are concentrating on New Mexico, the principles, and the underlying statutory provisions, are the same in most states.

Helen Hecht, a nationally recognized state tax law expert, has graciously agreed to participate in the class. Helen is a graduate of the law school, practiced tax law with the Sutin Law Firm and is presently Tax Counsel for the Federation of State Tax Administrators.

Students will be evaluated on class participation and written assignments. Students will be required to complete three or four memoranda of law, or similar projects, analyzing the issues raised by the problems. Helen and/or I will meet with students individually or in groups, as called for, to discuss each project.

There will be no casebook for the course. I will assign cases statues and other materials accessible online or from the library, and handout other reading material.

Tax Exempt Corporations

Course Description

Although the normal belief is that the delivery of goods and services is accomplished by two institutions, government and private industry, that belief is inaccurate. A third sector the nonprofit sector, is a major distributor of goods and services, or the financing force behind the delivery of goods and services. Last year the nonprofit/tax exempt sector accounted for eleven percent of the gross national product in this country.

In the law, the nonprofit sector on the one hand appears the same as any other private organization; on the other hand it is governed and taxed by special rules and laws. The purpose of the course will be to review the special principles that deal with nonprofit organizations and to question the policies for special treatment.

The course will probably be evaluated by means of problems, projects, and/or papers.


Books & Book Chapters

Contributions to Charities, Current Legal Forms with Tax Analysis (Rabkin & Johnson eds., 2013).
Available at: Law Library

NonProfit Organizations Law and Policy (2010) (co-authored with Marilyn E. Phelan).
Available at UNM-DR

Non-Profit Corporations, Current Legal Forms with Tax Analysis (Rabkin & Johnson eds., 2001).
Available at: Law Library

Provisional Remedies: Preliminary Injunctions and Temporary Restraining Orders, Walden's Civil Procedure in New Mexico (Occhialino et al. eds., 1996).
Available at: Law Library

Planning Tax Exempt Organizations (1983) (co-authored with S. Taylor) and Supplement (1995).

Cases and Materials on Contracts (1994) (co-authored with Frederick Hart) (UNMSOL textbook).
Available at UNM-DR

Equipment Leasing, Forms and Procedures Under the Uniform Commercial Code (Hart & Willier eds., 1990).
Available at UNM-DR

Not-For-Profit Activities, Bender's Federal Tax Service (1989).

Legal Problems in Community Economic Development (1970) (UNMSOL textbook).

Uniform Commercial Code Reporter-Digest (1969).
Available at UNM-DR


The Law School Library: Its Function, Structure, and Management, 73 SPECIAL LIBRARIES 292 (October 1982).
Available at UNM-DR

The Profitable Non-Profit Corporation Business Activity and Tax Exemption Under Section 501(C)(3) of I.R.C., 1 N.M. L. REV. 563 (1971).
Available at UNM-DR

The New Mexico Professional Corporation, 9 NAT. RESOURCES J. 591 (1969) (co-authored with Ault & Smith).
Available at NRJ

The Community Development Corporation, 10 B.C. INT'L & COMP. L. REV. 217 (1969) (co-authored with Sanchez).
Available at UNM-DR

Article 1: General Provisions (Comment) of Uniform Commercial Code Annotations, 7 B.C. L. REV. 94 (1965) (co-authored Black, Goldberg & Kotarba).
Available at UNM-DR

Article 9: Secured Transactions (Comment) of Uniform Commercial Code Annotations, 7 B.C. L. REV. 120 (1965) (co-authored Black, Goldberg & Kotarba).
Available at UNM-DR

Note, Administrative Law-Internal Revenue Code-Proof Required to Open a "Closed Year," United States v. Powell, 6 B.C. INT'L & COMP. L. REV. 922 (1965).
Available at UNM-DR

Note, Secured Transactions-After Acquired Property Clause-Priority to "Equipment Under the Uniform Commercial Code," United States v. Baptist Golden Age Home, 6 B.C.INT'L & COMP. L. REV. 367 (1965).
Available at UNM-DR


Twenty Years Later, 34 UNIV. TOLEDO L. REV. 49 (2002).
Available at UNM-DR

New Mexico Taxes, 32 N.M. L. REV. 351 (2002).
Available at NMLR

Letter from the Dean, 11 N.M. L. REV. (1981).
Available at NMLR