Max Minzner Returns Home to Join UNM Law Faculty

September 28, 2011

Professor Max Minzner

As a law professor, Max Minzner has found a way to blend his passion for the parts of mathematics and the law that excite him the most. "I love the reasoning and formal logic of math, but I wanted to apply it in a real-world setting," he said. "I like to get on my feet and talk, and as a law professor, I get to combine all of that."

Minzner, who joined the UNM law faculty in August 2011, pursued an undergraduate degree in mathematics and political science at Brown University, and quickly followed that up with a law degree from Yale Law School.

After clerking for Judge Pamela Rymer of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and working as an associate with Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City, Minzner was ready to spend more time in the courtroom. “I wanted to try cases,” he said simply.

He had spent the summer after his first year of law school working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, where Norman Bay, now a colleague on the UNM law faculty, was his supervisor. Influenced by the quality of the lawyers and the work they did that summer, when he decided to become a prosecutor, Minzner applied to become an assistant U. S. attorney, and joined the office in Brooklyn, New York.

“I enjoyed the autonomy and the opportunity as a young lawyer to manage my own cases, under the supervision of excellent prosecutors,” he said.

For the next four years, Minzner served as lead or co-lead prosecutor on a number of significant cases, including United States v Espinoza, in which he prevailed in the conviction of a defendant accused of transporting 500 kilograms of cocaine worth $10 million from Los Angeles to New York. The case involved the largest seizure of cocaine in Long Island history up to that point.

As much as he liked this work, Minzner also harbored an interest in academia. That’s not surprising, given that his mother, the late-Honorable Pamela Minzner, was the second woman to join the UNM law faculty before she went on to become a New Mexico Supreme Court justice.

In 2006, Minzner joined the faculty of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “As a law professor, I have enjoyed the opportunity to engage in scholarship and write about topics that I am interested in,” he said. “But the real joy is that I get to launch students on their careers and hear back from them when they are in practice.”

Minzner has focused his teaching and scholarship on criminal law and civil procedure. One of his recent articles is titled, Putting Probability Back into Probable Cause, published in the Texas Law Review in 2009.

Another article, to be published in the William & Mary Law Review in 2012, is titled, Why Agencies Punish, and came about after Minzner spent a year as special counsel to the director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Enforcement. The article looks at what administrative agencies are trying to accomplish when they engage in enforcement actions. At FERC, Minzner was reunited with Bay, who has been on leave from the faculty to serve as director of FERC’s Office of Enforcement.

He is delighted to return to his hometown and the UNM School of Law, where he spent the 2009 spring semester as a visiting professor. “I’m looking forward to building a relationship with the students and the faculty,” he said. “The intimate size and warm atmosphere of UNMSOL makes establishing those relationships easy.”

Outside of the classroom, Minzner enjoys playing bridge and reading. In October, he and his wife, Mary, are expecting their first child, which is certain to cut into his bridge time and be the best relationship of all.