Peter Tiersma

A Tribute to
Peter M.Tiersma

  View Event Recording

Peter M. Tiersma

Peter M. Tiersma was one of the nation's leading scholars of law and language. With a Ph.D. in linguistics and a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley, he authored numerous prominent books and articles exploring the relationship between words, linguistic media, meaning, and the workings of the law.

Peter joined the Loyola Law School faculty in 1990 and held the Hon. William M. Byrne, Jr. Chair from 2009 until his passing in 2014. He was a beloved teacher, winning the Best Professor of the Year Award several times.  He was a member of many illustrious organizations, including the Oxford University Press editorial board for the law and language series, and advisory panels for both Black’s Law Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary.  He also served on the California Judicial Council Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions, where he helped rewrite California’s jury instructions to make them more understandable and effective for jurors. He clerked for Justice Stanley Mosk of the California Supreme Court.

Event Information

Peter M. Tiersma Tribute
Friday, April 1, 2016, 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Walter J. Lack Reading Room
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

Programme will begin at 12 noon.
A light lunch will be served.
Parking requires credit/debit card.

Please join us for a lunchtime tribute to Peter Tiersma as a scholar, a teacher, a friend and colleague.  The programme will include remarks from leading scholars and legal officials, including:

  • Lawrence Solan, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School, and co-author with Peter Tiersma of the Oxford Handbook of Language and Law
  • Edward Finegan, Professor of Linguistics and Law, University of Southern California 
  • Janet Ainsworth, Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law

The event is co-sponsored by:

  • The California Supreme Court Historical Society
  • The International Law and Language Association
  • The International Association of Forensic Linguists
  • Oxford University Press

Video Recording

For those of you who could not attend, a video recording of the event is provided below. If you are having trouble viewing the video click here.

Speaking of Language and Law


Oxford University Press has just released Speaking of Language and Law: Conversations on the Work of Peter Tiersma. This volume contains 12 of Peter Tiersma's most influential essays, with commentary and reflections from leading law and language scholars from around the world. Two editors of the volume--Professors Lawrence Solan and Janet Ainsworth--will be available at the tribute for book signing.

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Peter M. Tiersma Special Collection

  • The Pandectarium, seu Digestorum Juris Civilis (1539)

  • Decree of the Convention Nationale (1792)

  • Bulletin Des Lois. N ̊ 174 (1808)

  • Notarial Act (1633)

Peter M. Tiersma was a collector and connoisseur of rare and important legal documents.  He left his extraordinary collection to the William M. Rains Library at Loyola Law School.  The library is making these documents publicly available online:  click on the link below to view the collection.  Guests at the tribute will be able to see the documents in person, including a page from the Nuremberg Chronicle ("the first illustrated book"), an Anno Regni Georgii III quarto, and the British Term Limits Act of 1714, from the 12th year of the reign of Queen Anne.

  View the Collection

Support Peter's Legacy: The Peter M. Tiersma Collection

Be a part of establishing the Peter M. Tiersma Collection, benefitting students and scholars for generations to come.  Your gift will support the care and preservation of the Collection. Loyola Law School is proud to recognize the founding contributors who make a gift to the Collection by May 31, 2016 with the following:

Platinum Leaf Level | $2,500+
Invitation to a special donor event hosted by the Loyola Law School dean & all courtesies listed below
Gold Leaf Level | $1,000-$2,499
Special acknowledgement at the tribute event on April 1 & all courtesies listed below
Leather Bound Level | $500-$999
Program acknowledgement at the tribute event on April 1 & all courtesies listed below
Limited Edition Level | Up to $499
Listed on Peter M. Tiersma Rare Books Collection Digital Archive Website

  Make Your Gift


  • This is an incredibly tough loss. I was lucky to get to know Peter in two capacities: as his colleague and as his student. We worked most closely together on promoting the Loyola's study abroad programs, and I would occasionally borrow his voice-over talents for narration work. And I was fortunate enough to get to know another side of Peter... Brian Costello '12, Assistant Director, LLS Marketing...
  • For many years Peter and I made wine together. We would take walks along the bluff overlooking Elwood Beach, or go wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley. Every visit would include an examination of his most recently acquired document. He would introduce this moment very matter-of-factly: “Come. I have something you might be interested in.” And I... Professor Jeffery Atik, Loyola Law School
  • It is an honor to write a personal memory about my friend, Peter Tiersma. I always enjoyed speaking with Peter about our common interests - being raised in the San Joaquin Valley, our love of wine and driving sports cars. I admired Peter's strength during his health battles and encouraged him to purchase his sports car. Rest in peace my... Pam Buckles, Executive Director Academic Administrative...
  • If we had a Hall of Fame for members of the Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions, Peter would have been a charter member. His work was incredibly valuable in the formation of an entire new set of standard jury instructions. Peter brought a clarity of thought and reason to the Committee that will be sorely missed. Even while sick over... Associate Justice Sandy R. Kriegler '75, chairperson...
  • I haven't ever met Peter, but I feel as if I have. Last year I ventured into a new area, exploring just what went wrong in cases such as that of Trayvon Martin. Peter's wise counsel and wonderful scholarship opened up new scholarly doors for me, making me smarter and, hopefully, better. His comments were absolutely essential to get me... Michael G. Heyman, Professor, The John Marshall Law School...
  • I am writing on behalf of the Fryske Akademy (Frisian Academy) in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, where we all very much regret that Peter Tiersma is no more with us. In 1952 Peter was born in the Frisian village of Toppenhuzen and as a young boy he emigrated with his family to the USA. As a native speaker of Frisian he got his first university education in... Tjeerd/Tseard de Graaf
  • Peter was a kind and gentle man. We were neighbors in Los Angeles. We would often meet at the pool and chat about life. When he became sick, I saw him and he told me that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Knowing its an aggressive cancer, I was scared. But I knew that he would had beaten cancer before. He was such an optimist in face of the... Jimmy Bayan
  • I met Peter and his lovely wife Thea many years ago in the summer of 1999 after being introduced by a mutual friend Tim McFadden. I was a fearless your Irish lad fresh our of law school in England over in California to get my own taste of LA Law at Heller Erhman. Peter and Thea hosted me in their home on the way to SF, Peter showed me the local... Philip A Grimason Tullylish, Co Down, Northern Ireland
  • Professor Tiersma was a gifted teacher, a great mind, and a very kind person. I will never forget my last last 3-L class was his Remedies course. Afterwards, he stopped to congratulate a group of us who celebrated with a glass of wine. And he taught us how to properly pronounce "gewurztraminer"- which we were drinking. Gerald Bowman
  • As a man of great dignity and a scholar of great erudition, Peter used to intimidate me. Oh, not with anything he ever did or said but just by virtue of his bearing. One evening, after a long conference day at a venue I'll never be able to remember, a number of graduate students were hanging out on the floor of a hotel room talking... Philip Gaines
  • Professor Tiersma was one of the few teachers/professors I've had, at any level, whose passion for teaching came through on a regular basis. I'll never forget the Trusts & Wills class he was unable to make during my third year. Rather than take the night off, he actually recorded a video of his full lecture and sent that to be played... Jason Pyrz - '06