James C.N. Paul, 85, a Philadelphia native and former dean of Rutgers Law School in Newark, N.J., who helped found the first law school in Ethiopia, died of prostate cancer Tuesday, Sept. 13, at home in Trappe, Md.
While teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in the early 1960s, Mr. Paul made several trips as an Eisenhower Fellow and on behalf of the Peace Corps to universities in Ethiopia and other African nations.
In 1963, he accepted an invitation from Haile Selassie University, now Addis Ababa University, to oversee the creation of a law school. He moved his family to Addis Ababa, and spent the next six years raising money, building the law school, and hiring faculty, while serving as law school dean and professor of law. From 1968 to 1969, he was also academic vice president of Haile Selassie University.
Mr. Paul was dean at Rutgers University Law School-Newark from 1970 to 1975 and remained on the law school faculty until retiring in 1996.
While at Rutgers and after retiring, he kept up ties to Ethiopia. Following the overthrow of an oppressive military regime, he was a consultant from 1974 to 1987 to the Ethiopian Constitutional Commission and worked closely with the commission’s chairman to draft the constitution’s bill of rights.
In 2001, Mr. Paul was appointed to the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission at the Hague, Netherlands. The commission was mandated by the peace treaty between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2000 to hear and rule on claims of alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions during the two-year war between the countries.
Before the commission concluded with its final decision in 2009, Mr. Paul made eight trips, often for a month at a time, to the Hague, his son, Nicholas, said.
John R. Crook, an international lawyer and member of the commission, described Mr. Paul as the “conscience” of the commission. “He was determined that the commission should do whatever it could to address the needs of the many thousands of vulnerable people in both countries whose lives and livelihoods were ruined by the war,” Crook said.
Mr. Paul helped establish a fund, administered jointly by Ethiopia and the United States, to support programs aimed at strengthening protections of human rights guaranteed under Ethiopia’s constitution.
In 2009, Addis Ababa University named its law library after Mr. Paul.
In a condolence to Mr. Paul’s family, Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia, wrote: “We cherish James Paul’s legacy of generous, dedicated service to the people and government of Ethiopia.”
Mr. Paul grew up in Chestnut Hill and graduated from Germantown Friends School.
During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific.
After his discharge, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1948 from Princeton University and a law degree in 1951 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review.
Mr. Paul clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Vinson for two years and then taught at the University of North Carolina Law School before joining the faculty of Penn’s law school in 1954. He wrote several books on international law, federal censorship policies, and local government.
In addition to his son, Mr. Paul is survived by his wife of 63 years, Peggy; daughters Martha and Adelaide; a brother; a sister; seven grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Third Haven Friends Meeting, 405 S. Washington St., Easton, Md.