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Charles Reid, Jr


  • Education
  • J.D., Catholic University of America
    J.C.L., Catholic University of America
    Ph.D., History of Medieval Law, Cornell University
    B.A., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

  • Expertise
  • Canon Law, Employment and Labor Law, Injunctions, Damages and Commercial Remedies, Legal History, Marriage Law and Policy

Charles J. Reid, Jr. was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he majored in Latin, Classics, and History, and also did substantial coursework in classical Greek and modern European languages. It was during his undergraduate days that he developed an interest in canon law, doing a year of directed research in Roman and canon law under the supervision of James Brundage. Reid then attended the Catholic University of America, where he earned J.D. and J.C.L. (license in canon law) degrees. During his time at Catholic University, he organized a series of symposia on the bishops' pastoral letter on nuclear arms. The proceedings of these symposia were published under Reid's editorship as "Peace in a Nuclear Age: The Bishops' Pastoral Letter in Perspective" (Catholic University of America Press, 1986). This book was called by the New York Times "among the most scholarly and unsettling of responses" to the pastoral letter (December 28, 1986).

Reid then attended Cornell University, where he earned a Ph.D. in the history of medieval law under the supervision of Brian Tierney. His thesis at Cornell was on the Christian, medieval origins of the western concept of individual rights. Over the last ten years, he has published a number of articles on the history of western rights thought, and is currently completing work on a book manuscript addressing this question.

In 1991, Reid was appointed research associate in law and history at the Emory University School of Law, where he has worked closely with Harold Berman on the history of western law. He collaborated with Professor Berman on articles on the Lutheran legal science of the sixteenth century, the English legal science of the seventeenth century, and the flawed premises of Max Weber's legal historiography.

In 2002, Reid was appointed professor of law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Reid’s scholarship has focused broadly on the intersection of legal theory and legal history. He has written several leading articles on the medieval and early modern origins of the Western conception of individual rights. These articles led to the publication of a book entitled Power Over the Body, Equality in the Family: Rights and Domestic Relations in Medieval Canon Law. In a pair of articles published in 2017, Reid explored the Romanist and Canonist roots of European inheritance law, focusing especially on the practice of the “forced share,” the requirement that parents ordinarily set aside a portion of their estate for the benefit of their offspring. In a series of four articles, beginning in 2020 and continuing to the present, Reid has examined the contributions of the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas to legal theory. In an article published in 2015, Reid investigated classical Roman law when he asked the question “Did the Emperor Augustus succeed or fail in his morals legislation?” Reid has also looked at some examples of the ways in which Roman Law has influenced decision-making in the United States Supreme Court in a pair of studies on the judicial opinions of Chief Justice Edward Douglass White.

In a series of three articles, beginning in 2015, and continuing to the present, Reid has raised the question whether the Catholic Church’s tradition can accommodate same-sex unions and has answered in the affirmative. In a series of articles continuing to the present, Reid has examined the jurisprudential foundations of the great Catholic legal historian and judge, John T. Noonan, Jr. Reid has also recently developed an interest in using the Catholic Church’s canon law as an instrument for healing. This was the point of his book Peacemaking and the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which focused respectively on papal diplomacy; canonical arbitration; and the reconciliation of intractable ecclesiastical disputes.

In addition to his work on canonistic themes, Reid has explored important questions in the history of English and American law. The Seventeenth-Century Revolution in the English Land Law examines the early-modern foundations of the English and American law of real property. The Transformation of English Legal Science, co-authored with Harold Berman, has been cited not only by scholars but in federal court opinions. In a pair of articles, written in 2018 and 2023, Reid inquired into Alexander Hamilton’s contributions to American constitutionalism. He has also investigated the use and application of the doctrine of precedent by American courts in the early nineteenth century.

Reid has also taught a wide range of courses across the Law School curriculum. He has taught Jurisprudence; Wills and Estates; Remedies; Conflicts of Law; Criminal Law; Legal History; Labor Law; Great Books; and currently teaches both the First-Year Contracts course and the First-Year Constitutional Law course.