Riding High: Law school professor writes 'Little Book of Horse Racing'


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

For someone who has run with the bulls in Pamplona and scaled 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, facing classrooms full of law students is a walk in the park.   

Professor Charles Palmer, a prolific legal author who has taught at all the Cooley Law School campuses except Tampa, primarily teaches at the Lansing campus.

“I practiced law for 18 years and during the last several years of practice, I taught at Cooley in the evenings,” he says. “I enjoyed the interaction with students. I enjoy their enthusiasm about our profession that our entering students have and the challenge of figuring out how to explain a concept that may be foreign to them.”

Palmer—who specializes in criminal law, real estate, personal injury, and entertainment law—has taught Business Organizations, Contracts I, Entertainment Law, Evidence, International Art Law, International Arbitration, Law Practice, Medicine Forensics and the Law, Products Liability, Property I and II, Remedies, Unfair Trade Practices, Wills & Trusts, as well as Torts I and II, the topic he is teaching this year. He shares with students his nearly two decades of professional legal experience, trying more than 300 cases and handling appeals in the Michigan Court of Appeals, Michigan Supreme Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Palmer, who has been honored with Cooley’s Stanley E. Beattie Teaching Award, enjoys teaching overseas. When he was invited in 2002 by the director of the University of San Diego program to teach in Florence, Italy, he jumped at the chance, even though the only opening was teaching Art Law.

“I did it and became very interested in the area which is essentially small items of personal property with great value,” Palmer says. “Art Law considers copyright, forensics, and international heritage and commerce.”

Palmer, who also has taught in Barcelona and London, thoroughly enjoyed his summer teaching Art Law in Florence.

“Walking the streets that Michelangelo and Da Vinci walked is quite an experience,” he says. “Two of my three sons were with me along with their friends. It was a wonderful summer.

“The Europeans celebrate the Summer Solstice more than we do. The celebration in the town square of Florence was spectacular. I remember a couple horizontally dancing on the clock on the Florentine tower at night. After Florence, we spent three weeks in Cinque Terre, Italy an area of five ancient towns on the side of the mountains going down to the Mediterranean.”

In 2000, Palmer taught Business Organizations in Cooley’s Australia Program, and enjoying touring Down Under.

“Anyone who has traveled to Australia would be impressed with the Great Ocean Road along an area called the 12 Apostles, large rock formations sticking out of the Southern Ocean,” he says. “I took the Ghan, a luxury Australian train, from Adelaide straight north to Darwin in the north, a 48-hour journey across Australia.”

Before pursuing a law degree, Palmer earned a business degree from the University of Michigan Business School.

“I was generally interested in business and had made some money investing in the stock market,” says Palmer, who earned his J.D. from U-M. “I went to college in the 1960s when lawyers were major spokesmen for the various factions in our society. I liked the fact that lawyers could represent both sides and also be involved in so many other parts of life.”

A native of Leslie, a small town located a few miles south of Lansing, Palmer is the proud father of three sons. Rob, a recent Cooley grad, has passed the bar and now works at Sinas, Dramis, Brake, Boughton and McIntyre in Lansing. Joe, who did two tours of duty as an Army scout in Iraq, is a deputy U.S. marshal in San Francisco; and Chris is an advertising executive with BeamGlobal in Chicago. 

“I have two granddaughters who are ripping through the world with reckless abandon,” Palmer says. “I’m proud of all of them.”

His son Rob is also Palmer’s co-author on an upcoming book for ABA Publishing on horse racing law, “The Little Book of Horse Racing.”

“I grew up in horse racing with my father, sister, and brother-in-law racing horses,” says Palmer, who also has written articles on sports law and legal history and is co-author of a book on entertainment law.

He also authored a chapter on nonprofit and community theatres for the “Theater Law Book”; and for “Courting the Yankees,” about the New York Yankees and law.  He has just completed a textbook on torts with colleagues Kate Butler and Mark Dotson.

Horse racing at the legendary Saratoga track ranks among Palmer’s leisure time interests, along with Wolverine football, and the Detroit Tigers. He gives back to the community by serving on the board of directors of the Independent Bank Corp.

“I grew up in a small town and I appreciate a bank that serves most of Michigan’s small communities,” he says.  “We struggled during the downturn, but are now well on our way back to financial health.”

He also serves as director of the East Lansing Film Festival.

“I’ve always loved film festivals,” he says. “I try to go to Sundance every year.”