Bolch Judicial Institute
Bolch Judicial Institute
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Mourning Francis McGovern

Francis E. McGovern

Following are tributes to beloved Duke Law professor Francis E. McGovern.

A note from David F. Levi, director of the Bolch Judicial Institute 

I have admired and enjoyed knowing Francis for many years, long before I came to Duke. He was one of a kind — brilliant, dedicated, kind, energetic, and with a great sense of humor. As a lawyer and teacher, he was focused on moving the field forward, solving seemingly intractable problems, making things better without the friction and expense of traditional litigation. He spanned the academic study of dispute resolution and the practice of a much-in-demand mediator. His range and reach was incredible, and he generously shared his knowledge and insights with colleagues, students, practitioners, and judges. We worked closely together these past few months to plan Duke’s MDL certificate program, a program that he hoped would be a big part of his legacy. He wanted to create opportunities for others in the field that he defined and mastered, both to advance the field and to bring forward new voices and perspectives. He was a mentor, teacher, and friend to so many. And he and spouse Katy were such good and fun companions. How we will miss him.


Duke Law mourns Francis McGovern, preeminent expert in ADR, resolving mass tort claims (Duke Law News)

The Duke Law community is mourning the passing of Professor Francis E. McGovern, who died on Feb. 14 following a fall at his home in Marin County, Calif. McGovern was renowned for his expertise in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and his innovative work as a special master and mediator overseeing or advising on the management and settlement of mass tort claims. He is remembered by his colleagues as a cherished friend.

 “It’s hard to think about Francis in the past tense,” said Professor Donald Beskind LLM ’77. “In life he was an active verb. He used his energy and creativity to create action. Lawyers and judges who considered their cases intractable came to him to help them find resolutions. As a friend he was generous with ideas, time and warmth. A dinner with Francis and his wife, Katy, the high point of any day, was filled with discussions of current events, his children of whom he was immensely proud, his travel and his work. But always of interest to Francis were the lives of others and their families. In his life and his work, he took pleasure in empowering and encouraging those he encountered with his ideas, connections, and generosity.” Continue Reading»


In Memoriam: Francis McGovern (American Law Institute)

Francis E. McGovern of Duke University School of Law, passed away on Feb. 15 at the age of 75.

Professor McGovern was a well-known and immensely respected practitioner, scholar, and teacher in the fields of alternative dispute resolution, products liability, and complex litigation.

An ALI member for over 35 years, he was regularly involved with the Institute, recently serving on the Members Consultative Group for Restatement of the Law, The Law of American Indians project until his death. Continue Reading»


Remembrance: Professor Francis McGovern (UC Hastings Law)

UC Hastings Law and the national litigation community is mourning the sudden death of Visiting Professor Francis McGovern, following a fall at his home in Marin. He was 75, and to many, completely irreplaceable.

Professor McGovern taught each spring semester at UC Hastings. “I’d known Francis for over 25 years and was thrilled that, after I became dean in 2016, he decided to move his spring teaching from Berkeley Law to UC Hastings,” said Chancellor and Dean David Faigman. “When I talked to him about the change, he joked that the move would bring him closer to the San Francisco Golf Club, so he could get a round in after his early morning class.” He taught cutting-edge courses at UC Hastings, including Using AI in Legal Practice and Litigation Finance. Continue Reading»


Special master in Station fire cases dies at 75 (Providence Journal)

In many senses Duke University law Prof. Francis E. McGovern could be considered the father of alternative dispute resolution in America, but in Rhode Island he played a sensitive and special role as the special master who brokered the settlement for the 300-plus victims of the Station nightclub fire.

McGovern died Feb. 14 after a fall at his home in Marin County, California, according to an announcement by the Duke University School of Law. He was 75.

“I don’t think, without his help, it would have gotten resolved when it did,” said Gina Russo, a survivor of the Feb. 20, 2003, blaze that killed 100 people and left 200 more injured. Continue Reading»


Francis McGovern II Obituary (The Washington Post)

Francis Edward McGovern II Passed away unexpectedly on February 14, 2020, at age 74. Francis’s birth in Albemarle County, Virginia marked his family’s sixth generation. Francis graduated from Yale University and the University of Virginia School of Law, and served his country as a Captain in the U.S.Marine Corps. A widely revered and innovative legal scholar and gifted teacher, Francis was a tenured Professor of Law at Duke University and Associate Professor at The University of California Hastings College of Law and taught in various capacities at dozens of law schools nationally and internationally. Continue Reading»