News & Events


Posted March 20, 2003
Conference Inspires Interest in Public Service Careers

Conference on Public Service and the LawHundreds of public service-minded law students turned out March 14 and 15 for the 4th annual Conference on Public Service and the Law,which continues to draw top attorneys and officials for discussions designed to survey the status of legal issues relating to social justice. The student-organized event featured a timely pre-trial look at the pro and con arguments for affirmative action admissions policies in public higher education due to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court April 1 and took the pulse of issues in such areas as corporate responsibility in financial scandals; school vouchers; freedom of the press in the war on terrorism; fire policy on public lands; public registries of sex crime offenders; deportation where individuals may face torture; the feminization of poverty; and international protection of intellectual property rights. Participants also heard speeches by Robert Hirshon, immediate past president of the American Bar Association, John Bridgeland '87, the director of the USA Freedom Corp, and Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano '83 on the satisfactions and challenges of careers in public interest law.

Designed to stimulate law student interest in public service careers, the Conference also offered workshops on getting clerkships and government positions as well as practical advice on how to get involved in direct advocacy and pro bono work through law firms. The conference drew nearly 500 pre-registrants, including law students at Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Berkeley, Minnesota, Missouri and nearby schools in the Mid-Atlantic region. Six prospective students for Virginia Law's Class of 2006 also attended. This year's conference co-chairs were Carmen Elliott '04 and Billy Wynne '04. The conference was supported with donations from the Public Interest Law Association at U.Va., the Caplin Public Service Center, the Miller Center for Public Affairs, and the law firms Hunton and Williams and Patton Boggs, as well as numerous other contributors.
For more coverage, see the stories below.

Affirmative Action Arguments Debated at Public Service Conference

Affirmative Action Panel
From left, panel moderator Prof. Kim Forde-Mazrui, Jonathan Alger, Peter J. Rubin, Richard Banks, Curt Levey, and Roger Pilon. Photo by Alison Perine.

Two weeks before they meet at the U.S. Supreme Court for a fateful showdown on affirmative action admissions policies at the nation's public universities, the opposing sides in Grutter v. Bollinger held a pretrial scrimmage at the Law School March 15 as the main event of the 4th annual Conference on Public Service and the Law.

The panel brought together Jonathan Alger, Assistant General Counsel for the University of Michigan (the defendant in the case brought by Barbara Grutter, an unsuccessful applicant to the U-M Law School in 1997); Stanford University law professor Richard Banks; Curt Levey, director of legal and public affairs for the Center for Individual Rights (which is representing Grutter); Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies; and Peter J. Rubin, associate professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. More

Gov. Napolitano
Napolitano urged students to "always go for an open seat."

Napolitano Encourages Balance of Private, Public Practice

After graduating from the Law School in 1983, Janet Napolitano packed everything she owned into her two-door Honda and puttered out to Arizona in the August heat. She may not have known it then, but she was heading for her future as well. Now governor of Arizona, the first woman to succeed another woman as governor in the country, Napolitano looked back on her wending path through private and public law during the Conference's keynote address March 15.

Working as a judge's clerk, in private practice, as a U.S. Attorney and as Arizona's attorney general, Napolitano said, "has prepared me to take on what is probably the most challenging job in government now." More

Robert Hirshon

Hirshon Urges State Loan Forgiveness Programs to Spur More Public Interest Practice

State governments should set up loan forgiveness programs for young lawyers who enter public service careers, said Robert Hirshon, immediate past president of the American Bar Association, in a speech opening the 4th annual Conference on Public Service and the Law March 14. Hirshon blamed rising law school debt for the decline in pro bono hours worked by young lawyers and for obliging graduates to choose higher-paying corporate jobs over public service careers.

Addressing students, he said, "You have an ethical mandate to focus more on practice and less on salary," and that it was time for the rising generation of lawyers to steer the profession away from its preoccupation with business and more toward its traditional emphasis on service and justice. More

U.S. Adherence to U.N. Convention Against Torture May Be Shaky in War on Terror

"These are troubling times in terms of the tenor of the debate," said Wendy Patten, U.S. Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch.

A recent Washington Post article revealed the fine lines in the struggle to balance human rights with security of human life. The article told of a deputy police chief in Germany investigating the kidnapping of a prominent banker's son. The police nabbed the suspected kidnapper as he was picking up the ransom, but for hours he toyed with police about the whereabouts of the boy. The chief felt that it was "necessary to apply certain measures of pain" to find the boy, according to Conference on Public Service and the Law panelist David Stewart, Assistant Legal Adviser for Diplomatic Law and Litigation in the U.S. State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser. The deputy police chief provided for medical staff to attend, and police informed the suspect of his impending torture. Within minutes of the threat of torture the suspect told police where the boy was; when police searched the location they found he was already dead. Now the police chief is facing a criminal investigation for torture, but public opinion in his country supports him. Stewart and other panelists participating in the Deportation and U.N. Convention Against Torture panel March 15 suggested that U.S. officials also are facing these kinds of decisions as they interrogate—or allegedly allow other countries to interrogate—prisoners in the "war on terror," raising new questions about the United States' own compliance with the law. More

Panel moderator Prof. Kim Forde-Mazrui
Panel moderator Prof. Kim Forde-Mazrui

Child Sex Crime Laws Evolving Due to Recent Cases

The Elizabeth Smart case and a rash of other national media-reported crimes against children have drawn attention to how law enforcement responds to child sex crimes, the focus of a Conference on Public Service and the Law panel March 15. Members of the panel—a prosecutor, two law professors, and a sex offender counselor—made clear that the law for pursuing and punishing such cases has evolved dramatically in recent decades and even over the past year as a result of the recent Catholic Church abuse scandal.

Rick Moore, Deputy Commonwealth Attorney for the City of Charlottesville, estimated that 50 percent of his cases while serving as an Augusta County prosecutor from 1986-95 were child sex crime cases. More

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