Mark Barnes

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Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is an American attorney serving as partner in the Ropes & Gray health care practice and advocate based in Boston. He was Director of Policy for the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute, and Associate Commissioner for Medical and Legal Policy for the New York City Department of Health under the mayoralty of David Dinkins. He worked on the National Health Care Reform Task Force in the Clinton Administration. His work includes focus on the fields of research compliance, the ethics of clinical trials, and medical privacy. He is past President of the New York State Bar Association's Health Law Section.


Barnes is a native of Dadeville, Tallapoosa County, Alabama.[1] He is the son of Elaine Robinson and Mike Barnes, and his family has lived around Tallapoosa for generations. According to his family oral history, he is a direct descendant of Daniel Boone.[2] Barnes plans to retire to Dadeville, where he purchased family property.[3] He has been with his partner since 1983.

Barnes attended Bennington College. In 1984 Barnes graduated from Yale Law School with a juris doctor, and in 1991 he received his L.L.M. from Columbia University School of Law.

Legal career[edit]

In 1987 first-year Columbia students expressed appreciation of Barnes.

In 1988, as an associate professor of the Columbia Law School, Barnes founded the AIDS Law Clinic. He is a Lecturer at the Yale Medical School, where he teaches each Fall. He has also been an Adjunct Professor at a number of law schools, including NYU Law School, Brooklyn Law School, Cardozo Law School, and New York Law School. He has taught courses in the ethics and law of human subject research, healthcare law, public health, managed care law, occupational health and safety, and law and medicine.

AIDS Law Clinic[edit]

Barnes and Professor Deborah Greenberg at Columbia Law School founded the first legal clinic addressing the AIDS crisis, to allow law students to represent persons living with AIDS in anti-discrimination cases.[4] The program was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education and received referrals from the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the State Division of Human Rights. The clinical education director at Columbia said of Barnes: "[He] is a leader in the field, and we're lucky to have him. He's highly knowledgeable, he's litigated on a precedented discrimination case, and he's sensitive to the AIDS crisis."[5]

The clinic was praised by public health officials and by students as hands-on experience, but the school did not commit to continue it. When it did not renew Barnes' contract, students protested, and the issue was covered in the press. On April 12, 1989, 200 students protested Columbia Law School's attempts to close the "school's successful and much praised 'AIDS' legal clinic."[6] They held a sit-in at the law school building to demand the faculty committee renew Barnes's contract for another year. "We thought one of the reasons for him not being reappointed is the lack of support for the clinic by the university," said Maya Wiley, 3L and protest organizer.[7] Dean Barbara Black said the school supported the clinic, but declined to say why Barnes was not offered another one-year contract. Wiley said, "In all of our conversations with the powers-that-be at this school, it's been very clear to us that the clinic is in jeopardy and that there is a prevailing attitude among the powers-that-be opposed to the clinical approach." Student Matt Levine said: "We do care about Mark Barnes because he has run the clinic extremely well. But the core issue is the continuation of the AIDS clinic."

On April 19, co-founder Deborah Green announced the school would keep the clinic open.[8] On June 28, 1989, the Columbia Spectator reported that Barnes was reappointed and promoted from Clinic Advisor to the Assistant Clinical Professor of Law by the faculty.[9] "I'm gratified that the clinic will continue for an additional semester, but the challenge for the Law School is going to be the continuation of the clinic after the fall semester," said Barnes.

Public service[edit]

In 1989, Barnes began working as the AIDS policy director for the New York State Department of Health. The appointment was criticized by an activist with ACT UP/Washington, who said that Barnes' appointment was a "commitment to mediocrity" and that a director living with AIDS should have been chosen.[4] In 1992, he was appointed associate commissioner for medical and legal policy at the New York City Department of Health. He was appointed by then-Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to the new National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee, which examined issues of ethical conduct in human medical experimentation.[10] Barnes participated in the first-ever White House Conference on HIV and AIDS on December 6, 1995. He has been a consultant for the National Commission on AIDS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Red Cross, and the National Minority Task Force on AIDS. In 2012 he co-founded, and continues to serve as faculty co-chair of, the Multi-Regional Clinical Trials Center of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a project designed to improve the planning, conduct and regulation of multi-national clinical trials, with a special emphasis on trials in the emerging economies. In 2004, he was the founding executive director of the Harvard University AIDS treatment programs in Nigeria, Tanzania and Botswana funded under the PEPFAR program. In 1992, while serving as the associate commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, he wrote and managed the adoption of new health regulations that allowed the public health authorities to detain and treat patients with tuberculosis who had failed to take their anti-tuberculosis medications, reducing the rise of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in New York City in the early 1990s.


Barnes ancestor Daniel Boone
  • "Simple block-granting without tough federal oversight and high standards, of Medicaid or anything else, does not serve the common good. In AIDS, and in all areas of disease control, the costs of block-granting without accountability are measured in lives needlessly shortened and lost."[11]
  • "Being prolific allows you to give up credit from time to time."[12]
  • "With the President's signature to the 1996 Department of Defense Authorization bill, the single most regressive AIDS measure yet passed by Congress became law, leaving in its wake a bone-crushing devastation of life and career for 1049 activity duty service members..."[13]
  • "Once the administration failed [to veto the Defense Authorization bill], it is easier to see why the president--who is rumored to be furious at his own staff for this ineptitude--felt compelled to sign it. After all, his own staff had negotiated its final form."[14]
  • "The federal government has a compelling humanitarian and financial interest in ensuing [sic] that all poor people with life-threatening diseases have access to quality medical care -- an interest that 50 individual states cannot be relied upon to understand and act on."[15]


  • The Best Lawyers in America (1997-2018)
  • Legal 500 (2015, 2017-2018)
  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2004-2006)
  • New York Super Lawyers (2006, 2008)
  • Inspiring Yale Award for the Yale Law School (2018)
  • Thurgood Marshall Award for Death Penalty Advocacy, Association of the Bar of the City of New York


  1. ^ Wylodene White, "New York reader enjoys weekly column", The Dadeville Record, May 16, 1996.
  2. ^ Letters to the Editor, "The Pride of Tallapoosa", The New Republic, May 23, 1988; Barnes wrote, "Although I heard many tales from my great-grandfather, Jack Boone (a direct descendant of Daniel)...."
  3. ^ Id.
  4. ^ a b Kristina Campbell, "Mark Barnes wants AIDS Action Council to be a "tough presence", The Washington Blade, January 6, 1994
  5. ^ Tina Traster, "On the Front Lines of AIDSLaw: From Discrimination to Confidentiality, There Are Few Precedents In Any Of Their Cases", West Side Spirit, October 24, 1988, Page 20.
  6. ^ John Hammond, "Students Demonstrate at Columbia; Protest Department of AIDS Clinic Co-Director," New York Native, May 1, 1989.
  7. ^ William Douglas, Students Stage Sit-in To Aid Law Lecturer, New York Newsday, April 14, 1989.; Constance Hays, Students Protest Possible Closign of Legal Clinic, The New York Times, April 16, 1989.
  8. ^ D.J. Saunders, "AIDS law clinic stays," New York Daily News, April 20, 1989.
  9. ^ Gerson Rothschild, Barnes reappointed to run Law School AIDS clinic, Columbia Spectator, June 28, 1989.
  10. ^ New York Law Journal, Today's News: Update, January 4, 2001.
  11. ^ Op-Ed, A Lesson in 'Pure' State Control, The Chicago Tribune, January 31, 1996. Barnes was executive director of the AIDS Action Council.
  12. ^ Barnes, Mark. Class Lecture. Responsible Conduct of Research. Harvard School of Public Health. Boston, MA. 17 Sep 2010.
  13. ^ Op-Ed, Bill to dismiss HIV-positive military unfair, defies Constitution, Journal of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, March 1996.
  14. ^ Letter to the editor, The New Republic, March 18, 1996.
  15. ^ Op-Ed, Medicaid proposal spells out deadly reform, The Washington Blade, October 13, 1995.