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Law school and legal education news from JURIST's Paper Chase...

Friday, February 27

Scalia hunted with law dean before his case
Adam Henry

Leading today's law school news is an update in the trial of a former Appalachian School of Law student charged in a shooting rampage in January 2002. As anticipated, Peter Odighizuwa pleaded guilty today to avoid the death penalty for his actions; instead, he faces a sentence of six consecutive life terms plus 28 additional years. AP offers the full story here, and the Paper Chase's Winston Collier offers still more in his initial report on the matter.

In other news of national interest, the L.A. Times reports on another possible conflict of interest involving Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and a hunting partner. In November 2001 Scalia hunted pheasant with Dean Stephen McAllister of the University of Kansas School of Law, two weeks after McAllister defended a Kansas law before the high court, and two weeks before he argued another. Scalia sided with Kansas in both cases, but denied "that spending time at a law school in which the counsel in pending cases was the dean could reasonably cause [his] impartiality to be questioned." Granted, McAllister's position was as advocate and not litigant, but it strains credibility that the justice's impartiality is therefore beyond question, the operative standard for self-recusal under federal law.

Elsewhere, the University of Washington School of Law played host last night to a mock trial between attorney Michael Newdow and two UW law students concerning the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance's "under God" clause. Newdow, an atheist, attracted national attention last year when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed his Establishment Clause argument in Newdow v. US Congress [PDF]. The moot court's panel likewise held for Newdow, who was using the mock trial as a preparatory exercise before his oral arguments to the Supreme Court in March. UW's Daily has the full story here.

In other law school news today, the Record reports on responses by both faculty and students to a recent study identifying various disparities among the genders at Harvard Law School. Most notably, the study indicates that women are less likely than men to volunteer in class discussion. Find more on the findings in the report, entitled "Study on Women's Experiences at Harvard Law School," in the Record's initial article here.

Lastly, the Texas Lawyer, which reported earlier this week that more students in Texas law schools are choosing careers outside the law, now reports that at least one school in the Lone Star state is addressing their concerns. Dean William Powers of the University of Texas School of Law has helped implement an alumni association for nonpracticing UT graduates and is considering curricular changes that would better prepare students for alternative careers. The school's Nonpracticing Alumni Advisory Council may be the only organization of its kind among American law schools. Read the full story on the council here.

6:28 PM | | link to this post | latest Law School News

Thursday, February 26

Plea agreement close in law school shootings case
Adam Henry

Leading today's law school news, the Roanoke Times reports today that lawyers for a former student charged in a shooting rampage at the Appalachian School of Law are close to a plea agreement that would avoid a death sentence. One-time student Peter Odighizuwa, who was expelled for failing grades, is charged with killing the school's dean, a professor, and a student, as well as injuring three more people, in January 2002. In the wake of their murders, JURIST collected condolences for Dean L. Anthony "Tony" Sutin (editor of JURIST's coverage of the 2000 Presidential recount) and Professor Thomas Blackwell. The Times notes that the family of the third victim has filed a lawsuit charging Appalachian administrators with maintaining lax security and ignoring warning signs in advance of the shootings.

In happier news, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law announces that Professor Jonathan Adler has been named the recipient of the Paul M. Bator Award, given annually by the Federalist Society to an academic under the age of 40 who embodies the life and work of the award's namesake. Adler's prolific scholarship focuses on issues of environmental and regulatory policy. Case Western's press release has the full story here.

Also making headlines are students and faculty in the Jim Crow Study Group at the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law. Today the group released a report called "Still on the Books: Jim Crow and Segregation Laws Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education," revealing that a half-century after the landmark Brown decision, laws ensuring school segregation are still on the books of at least eight Southern states. Even if most of the laws are no longer enforced, Professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin contends, their continued presence on the books is an affront and an indicator of persistent attitudes. Read the group's report, which concludes with a call for repeal of identified legislation, here [PDF].

Lastly, today brings news about the future directions of three law schools. According to the Daily Helmsman, representatives of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis have met with local officials to discuss the school's proposed move to downtown Memphis. The school may require a new and larger facility in order to maintain its accreditation, says the Memphis Online, and it has its eye on an old and elegant building that is currently serving as a mail-sorting facility.

Elsewhere, Cleveland's Plain Dealer reports that Cleveland State University's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law plans to gradually downsize its enrollment as part of a multi-prong effort to raise its standards and reputation. Meanwhile, a campaign is underway at the University of Wisconsin Law School to improve students' writing and communication skills. Reforms include factoring legal writing course grades into student grade point averages and introducing more real-world learning exercises into course curricula. As Dean Kenneth Davis explains, "Because words are at the foundation of our work, sharp, focused legal writing is a powerful skill and we are committed to providing our graduates the right tools to succeed in practice." Read more on the initiative here.

11:20 PM | | link to this post | latest Law School News

Wednesday, February 25

Law graduates opting for "alternatives," says study
Adam Henry

Leading today's law school news, the Texas Lawyer reports on the results of a recent informal survey indicating that some 30% of graduates of Texas law schools opt for an "alternative" career at some point after graduation. The reason? Graduates sometimes prefer "a kinder, gentler work atmosphere where personal lifestyle and self-fulfillment considerations hold more weight and the sacrifices to be successful are not as great." Find the full story, which incorporates the results of an earlier survey by the American Bar Association, here.

Elsewhere, in the New York Law Journal's "Advice for the Lawlorn" section, a mid-level litigation associate looking to make a lateral move asks, "[W]hen will the scar of a lesser-ranked school ever go away in seeking future employment?" Columnist Ann Israel answers, with palpable regret, in the negative. And this bit of working world reality is most "ridiculous," she explains, for major firms in major legal markets. Read her full reply here.

Lastly, Cambridge-based publications supply several stories of interest. First, the Harvard Crimson reports today that the Harvard Law School Veterans Association has declined to sign its support for an amicus brief backing the controversial Solomon Amendment in an ongoing federal court case. As noted in a report last week, the amendment authorizes the Department of Defense to deny federal funding to institutions that limit access for military recruiters. The brief in question, filed by veterans groups at three other law schools, contends that the limitation of access will stigmatize students with military afffiliations and lead to a critical shortage of military lawyers.

Second, the Spring issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin features both an interview with Dean Elena Kagan of Harvard Law School, now half a year into her tenure, and a report on the newly launched $400 million capital campaign that will finance her ambitious plans. These plans include expanding the faculty in areas like international and environmental law, and upgrading the physical plant, especially its nonacademic student facilities. Half a billion dollars should surely help in achieving these ends.

4:58 PM | | link to this post | latest Law School News

Tuesday, February 24

BYU Law School names new dean
Adam Henry

In law school news today, the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University has named Professor Kevin Worthen as its new dean, effective at the end of May. A summa cum laude graduate of the law school and former clerk to Justice Byron White, Worthen has devoted much of his scholarship and practice to issues in American Indian law. BYU's NewsNet service offers the full story on his appointment here.

Elsewhere, the Emory Wheel reports today on "The Future of Tort Reform," a symposium held last Thursday at the Emory University School of Law. Scholars there disagreed on, among other things, the competency of juries to set damage awards. The symposium was a timely one, as the Georgia state legislature is currently debating a bill that would cap such awards in malpractice suits at $250,000. Read the Wheel's full report here.

5:50 PM | | link to this post | latest Law School News

Monday, February 23

New program at Columbia eyes social reform
Adam Henry

In today's law school news, the New York Law Journal reports on Social Justice Initiatives, a new and innovative program for social reform at Columbia Law School. Dean Ellen Chapnick says that the program "means to think systematically how Columbia can educate and inspire students and lawyers in government, it means continual reform and capacity-building projects nationally and internationally to assist students and practicing lawyers in government and human rights." Early areas of interest include the duties of state and local government under the "new federalism," and pro bono legal work in Latin America.

The New York Law Journal also reports that the Hofstra University School of Law has named Professor Alan Resnick as its new interim dean. Resnick replaces Dean David Yellen, who announced earlier this month that he would step down at the conclusion of his term in May. Read the Journal's full report here, and JURIST's initial report on the transition here.

5:33 PM | | link to this post | latest Law School News

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Adam Henry is an anchor for JURIST's Paper Chase and a 2L at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He holds an AB in Politics from Princeton University.
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