Year in Review: UVA Law Reflects on 2015 With Favorite Stories

Year in Review

From Supreme Court successes to the mystery of Gunner's owner, these are the stories that captured our attention in 2015.

December 28, 2015

The University of Virginia School of Law's year was marked with Supreme Court and clerkship successes, inspirational students and student projects, a mystery revealed, faculty who led national conversations and a glimpse at the future. Here are UVA Law's top stories from 2015.

A Change in Leadership at UVA Law

This summer, Dean Paul Mahoney announced he would step down in July 2016. After eight years leading the school, he will return to teaching and scholarship full-time. During his tenure, Mahoney advanced the UVA Law's reputation as one of the nation's top law schools by leading efforts to strategically expand the faculty, launch curricular innovations, enhance support for students and set records in fundraising.

UVA announced the new dean, UVA Law professor Risa Goluboff, in November. Goluboff, a renowned legal historian specializing in civil rights, is the John Allan Love Professor of Law and Professor of History at UVA and serves as the director of the J.D.-M.A. in history dual-degree program. Goluboff will be the first woman dean of the School of Law. The appointment is effective July 1.

Clerkship Success

UVA Law has four graduates currently clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court, and announced in July that Nicole Frazer '15 will clerk in 2016-17.

SCOTUS clerks
Andrew Kilberg '14, Galen Bascom '13, Ben Tyson '14 and Jonathan Urick '13

UVA also again set records for clerkship placement, including a school record of 62 graduates in U.S. district courts in 2015. This year marks the third time since 2011 the number of alumni clerkships has topped 100. UVA is fourth in contributing clerks to the Supreme Court from 2005-15, after Harvard, Yale and Stanford.

Advice from the Top

Joel Johnson, now a clerk for Judge T.S. Ellis III at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, graduated at the top of the Class of 2015. The former Supreme Court Litigation Clinic student and Virginia Law Review articles development editor offered advice for those seeking a similar path in this popular Q&A.

Joel Johnson
Joel Johnson '15

Gunner's Owner Revealed

We learned that 2015 graduate Caitlin Eberhardt was the human behind Gunner the Wonderdog, the school's unofficial exam mascot.

For three years, Gunner had been a mainstay during fall and spring finals. Eberhardt secretly placed him in amusing tableaus around the school in order to boost the morale of her fellow students. He has been spotted boning up for tests and preparing papers (on animal law, of course) while wearing glasses, a bow tie and even judge's robes.

Gunner also made a surprise return during fall exams.

The Class of 2018

Class of 2018
Victor Viser '18, Camille Grant '18, Megan Shoell '18 and Shazad Hussain '18

UVA Law welcomed the Class of 2018 in August. The 306-member group was selected from a pool of 4,568 applicants and represents 41 states and the District of Columbia. Assistant Dean for Admissions Cordel Faulk said they were "smart, thoughtful and interested in service and leadership."

Thirty-six members of the entering class are recipients of the prestigious Hardy Cross Dillard Scholarship, which recognizes applicants who demonstrate the potential for extraordinary leadership.

The LL.M. Class of 2016, which also joined UVA Law in the fall, included 57 students from 25 countries.

In the Courts: Supreme Court Litigation Clinic Wins Big — And So Does Professor Douglas Laycock

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic won Elonis v. United States, the Facebook threats case, and Henderson v. United States, which involved the ban on felons possessing firearms, on behalf of their clients at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. The latter was a unanimous decision.

Supreme Court Litigation Clinic
Members and faculty of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

The clinic, which has argued 12 cases in Washington since its inception in 2006, offers students the chance to handle actual cases, from the seeking of Supreme Court review to briefing on the merits.

Faculty were also involved in the Supreme Court's term, offering comments on rulings and arguing in front of the court. Professor Douglas Laycock unanimously won a decision for his client in Holt v. Hobbs, earning an Arkansas inmate the right to wear a beard according to his religious beliefs.

In related news, Appellate Litigation Clinic students traveled the country gaining courtroom experience preparing and arguing appellate cases, the result of an effort to expand the geographic reach of the clinic.

Fighting for the Innocent

Innocence Project
Innocence Project Clinic Director of Investigation Deirdre Enright, center, with members of the clinic

On the heels of a fame-making appearance on "Serial," the Innocence Project Clinic continued to work on behalf of inmates in need by investigating and litigating wrongful convictions.

The clinic and several UVA Law alumni assisted in an appeal before the Supreme Court of Virginia in which Virginia inmate Arsean Lamone Hicks was challenging the statute of limitations after learning of suppressed evidence in his case that could potentially exonerate him of a murder conviction.

As a result, thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law and a group of alumni, state courts must consider illegally suppressed, exculpatory evidence, no matter when it is uncovered.

Committed to Public Service

The Law School made another step to expand its commitment to public service this past year, guaranteeing funding for qualifying students working in public service jobs over the summer under a new plan for Public Interest Law Association grants. In the past three years alone, 292 grants worth more than $1.2 million have been given to students.

Megan Lisa Watkins
Megan Lisa Watkins '16

Megan Lisa Watkins was selected as the 15th Powell Fellow in Legal Services. The honor will fund her efforts to help youths avoid the school-to-prison pipeline.

Students in the Program in Law and Public Service also started a new blog to write about their career paths.

And in November, Professor Benjamin Spencer was sworn into the U.S. Army Reserve. As a reservist, he will be initially tasked with reviewing written reports of alleged misconduct by officers. He is taking a break from teaching this spring to undergo initial training but will return in the fall of 2016.

Faculty Newsmakers

A. E. Dick Howard
Professor A. E. Dick Howard, right, lectures on Magna Carta

Professor A. E. Dick Howard was steadily in the news for a series of lectures he gave around the world about the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Citations to Professor Brandon Garrett's work on his book "Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations" were prolific throughout the media, and Garrett was quoted in numerous stories of alleged corporate malfeasance. Professor Ruth Mason helped influence the conversation on a key U.S. Supreme Court tax case, and Professor Michael Livermore's work with Dartmouth researchers on analyzing Supreme Court texts also garnered substantial attention. Others (Jonathan Cannon, Paul Mahoney, Saikrishna Prakash and Frederick Schauer) published books that reflect on legal and regulatory dilemmas. Following the publication of Mahoney's "Wasting a Crisis," Congress called on the dean to testify at a U.S. House Financial Committee hearing regarding the aftereffects of the Dodd-Frank legislation, enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Mahoney will also be speaking at UVA's graduation on May 22.

Anne Coughlin
Professor Anne Coughlin

Professor Anne Coughlin, who had worked with students through the Molly Pitcher Project to fight for women in the U.S. military to be allowed to serve in combat roles, was again in the news when the combat exclusion came to an end.

Behind the Scenes of Student Life

As new SBA president Morgan Lingar and new Virginia Law Review editor-in-chief Andrew Lemens introduced themselves and gave us previews of their work ahead, The Libel Show and the Human Rights Study Project gave us access to behind-the-scenes images of what they do. #UVALawDay also gave us a picture of a day in the life at UVA Law.

We also saw students:

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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