Elizabeth G. Thornburg

Headshot of Elizabeth G. Thornburg, emeritus faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

Professor Emeritus of Law

Emeritus faculty



Professor Thornburg teaches and writes in the area of civil procedure and alternative dispute resolution. Drawing on her experience with civil rights and commercial litigation, her scholarship focuses on the procedural fairness of the litigation process, especially at the pleadings, discovery, and jury charge stages. She also writes and speaks in the areas of comparative procedure, online dispute resolution, and the intersection of law and culture.

Professor Thornburg's articles have appeared in a number of prominent law reviews in the U.S. and abroad. She is the co-author (with Professor Dorsaneo) of a study guide for Civil Procedure and two Texas procedure casebooks, and has contributed chapters to books on civil procedure issues in consumer law, sports law, computer law, and classic civil procedure cases. Her most recent book is LAWTALK:  THE UNKNOWN STORIES BEHIND FAMILIAR EXPRESSIONS, published by Yale University Press (with co-authors).

She teaches Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Complex Litigation, Texas procedure, Remedies, and an advanced procedure seminar. Thornburg has visited at the law schools at William & Mary, University of Edinburgh, West Virginia University, and the University of Melbourne.

In 2016, the university honored Professor Thornburg with the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award, an annual award that recognizes four SMU faculty members for their notable commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning.  In 2013, SMU selected Thornburg to receive the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award, an award established by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church for the purpose of recognizing outstanding faculty members for their dedication and contributions to the learning arts and to the institution. Professor Thornburg served as Director of Center for Teaching Excellence from 2012-2014.  She held the position of Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 2014-2017.

Area of expertise

  • Civil Procedure
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Law and Culture


B.A., College of William and Mary
J.D., Southern Methodist University


Civil Procedure


QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: CIVIL PROCEDURE (LexisNexis 4th ed. 2015) (with William V. Dorsaneo, III) (and prior editions).

LAWTALK (Yale University Press) (with Galanter, Shapiro, and Clapp) (2011) (excerpts from reviews posted on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Lawtalk-Unknown-Stories-Familiar-Expressions/dp/030017246X

TEXAS CIVIL PROCEDURE: PRE-TRIAL LITIGATION 2013-2014 (with Dorsaneo, Carlson, and Crump) (and prior editions).

TEXAS CIVIL PROCEDURE: TRIAL AND APPELLATE PRACTICE 2013-14 (with Dorsaneo, Carlson, and Crump) (and prior editions).


Twitter and the #So-CalledJudge, 70 SMU Law Review 749, (2018)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Cognitive Bias, the “Band of Experts,” and the Anti-Litigation Narrative, 65 DePaul Law Review (2016) (solicited for Clifford Symposium)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

A Community of Procedure Scholars: Teaching Procedure and the Legal Academy, 51 Osgoode Hall Law Review 93 (2013)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Defining Civil Disputes: Lessons from Two Jurisdictions, 35 Melbourne University Law Review 208 (2011) (with Cameron) (Peer reviewed) (cited by Federal Court of Australia,Case Management Handbook 25 (Oct. 2011))
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Reaping What We Sow: Anti-Litigation Rhetoric, Limited Budgets, and Declining Support for Civil Courts, 30 Civil Justice Quarterly 74 (2011)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Saving Civil Justice, 84 Tulane Law Review 247 (2010) (review essay of Hazel Genn, Judging Civil Justice)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

The Managerial Judge Goes to Trial, 44 University of Richmond Law Review 101 (2010)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Law, Facts, and Power, 114 Penn State Law Review - Penn Statim 1 (2010)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

The Curious Appellate Judge: Ethical Limits on Independent Research, 28 Review of Litigation 133 (2008)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Judicial Hellholes, Lawsuit Climates and Bad Social Science: Lessons from West Virginia, 110 West Virginia Law Review 1097 (2008)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Designer Trials, 2006 Journal of Dispute Resolution 181 (invited contribution for symposium on Vanishing Trial Project)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Just Say "No Fishing": The Lure of Metaphor, 40 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 1 (2006)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Contracting with Tortfeasors: Mandatory Arbitration Clauses and Personal Injury Claims, 65 Law & Contemporary Problems 253-278 (2003) (invited symposium contribution)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control: Lessons from the ICANN Dispute Resolution Process, 7 Journal of Small & Emerging Business 191 (2001) (Reprinted in 6 Computer Law & Technology Journal 89 (2001)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Going Private: Technology, Due Process, and Internet Dispute Resolution, 34 University of California Davis Law Review 151 (2000) [Reprinted in part in John Rothchild, Margaret Jane Radin & Gregory M. Silverman, INTERNET COMMERCE: THE EMERGING FRAMEWORK (2001)]
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Giving the "Haves" a Little More: Considering the 1998 Discovery Proposals, 52 SMU Law Review 229 (1999) [a portion of this article is reprinted in Subrin, Minow, Brodin, & Main, CIVIL PROCEDURE: DOCTRINE, PRACTICE & CONTEXT (2000)]
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Metaphors Matter: How Images of Battle, Sports, and Sex Shape the Adversary System, 10 Wisconsin Women's Law Journal 225 (1995) [a portion of this article is reprinted as a chapter in Davis, Mathewson & Shropshire, SPORTS AND THE LAW: A MODERN ANTHOLOGY (1999)]
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

The Power and the Process: Instructions and the Civil Jury, 66 Fordham Law Review 1837 (1998)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository


Ethical Issues with Judges Using Social Media and Conducting Internet Research
Third Circuit Judicial Conference
(October 2018).

Ethical Ways to Communicate About Justice on Social Media
Federal Judicial Center Workshop for District Judges
(May & August 2018).

The Curious Judge: Independent Factual Investigations
National College on Judicial Conduct & Ethics
(October 2017).

Third Annual Civil Procedure Workshop
(October 2017).

Social Media and #Judge
Second Circuit Judicial Conference
(June 2017).

The Pedagogy of Procedure:  Using Civil Procedure to Showcase Innovative Teaching Methods
AALS Annual Meeting
Joint Program of Sections on Civil Procedure and Teaching Methods
(January 2016)

The Curious Judge: Limits to Social Media and Independent Research
2015 Texas Judicial Education Conference (almost 500 Texas judges)
(September 2015)

Hearts, Minds, and the Politics of Procedural Rulemaking
Through a Glass Starkly: Civil Procedure Reassessed
Northeastern University School of Law
(April 2014)

Judicial Research on the Internet Outside the Record
Midwestern Conference of Chief Justices
(NCSC-sponsored conference)
(October 2013)

National Judicial Ethics Workshop for U.S. Bankruptcy Judges
(April & August 2013)

Lessons from Lawtalk
SMU Town & Gown
(April 2013)

Digital Humanities: Implications for Teaching
Futures for Humanistic Learning Research Cluster
Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute
(October 2012)

Private as Public and Public as Private: U.S. MTBE Litigation
Law & Society Conference
(part of Global Class Actions Research Group)
(June 2012)

Judicial Research on the Internet Outside the Record
National Workshop for U.S. Magistrate Judges
(April & July 2012)

Ethics and Judicial Research
Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference
(May 2011)

Teaching Civil Procedure in Common Law Countries Project
Invited Participant
England (June 2010)

The Rhetoric of Tort Reform: Considering the U.S. and Australia
Sydney Law School
(March 2010)

Manipulating Public Perception of Law and Courts
University of Melbourne Law School
(March 2010)