Decade in Review, a Refresher Course

Things You Might Not Remember About the Last 10 Years at UVA Law
UVA Law School exterior

Photo by Robert Llewellyn

December 18, 2019

Ten years ago, the economy had tanked, and to make matters worse, Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift during her September 2009 speech at the MTV Video Music Awards.

History, to be sure, is a mixed bag.

But what’s reliable each year is that students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law will take pride in new accomplishments, while enjoying a culture unlike any other in legal academia.

In the past decade, the Law School shook off the Great Recession, overturned a death sentence, challenged sexism in the military, caught a case of the hives (beehives, that is), helped a retired judge get a second shot at graduation, won numerous cases at the Supreme Court, took the Ice Bucket Challenge, staffed alums in clerkships at all levels, and topped the lists of The Princeton Review.

If it all seems like a blur, here’s our “refresher course,” which features key stories from the last 10 years.


As the nation was coming out of the Great Recession, things were looking up. Helping matters was the leadership of Dean Paul Mahoney. That fall, the school started the Program in Law and Public Service, spearheaded by then-Professor Jim Ryan ’92.

In the spring, law students lined up to send relief funds to Haiti’s earthquake victims and a 1985 alum rode his bike all the way from New York to attend his 25th anniversary class reunion.

Law School studentsStudents wore red for Haiti as part of a multifaceted campaign to aid the earthquake-ravaged country.

Janet Napolitano ’83, then secretary of Homeland Security, urged students to pursue public service careers in a speech marking her selection as the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalist in Law.


The Supreme Court heard four cases in one term brought by the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, a school record, and the Innocence Project Clinic helped overturn the death sentence of Northern Virginia man Justin Wolfe.

A group a students led by Professor Anne Coughlin set out to overturn the U.S. military’s ban on women serving in combat roles. (The ban was removed in 2013.)

Anne Coughlin with studentsThe Molly Pitcher Project: Helen O’Beirne ’13, Professor Anne Coughlin, Ariel Linet ’13, Rebecca Cohn ’13 and Kyle Mallinak ’13.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the commencement address.


Professor Douglas Laycock made his third of five oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The number of graduates clerking with judges in a single year reached 100 — marking the highest total in the school’s history up to that date. (During the 2019 term, 103 graduates clerked.)

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas visited the Law School in the spring.


Jar of honey

Students were abuzz in the fall about a honeybee hive in the building. The parting turned out sweet rather than sorrowful, as Above the Law reported. The hive was successfully relocated.

Professor Richard Bonnie ’69 was among experts who met with then-Vice President Joe Biden on gun violence reform following the Sandy Hook shooting.

In the spring, a three-student team earned a first-place finish in the Jean-Pictet International Humanitarian Law Competition.


The Virginia Law Review celebrated its centennial, and we took a look at Vol. 100, No. 1.

At graduation, a retired Virginia judge got a second chance to participate in the commencement ceremony he missed 56 years earlier, thanks to his granddaughter, who was graduating that May.

Law students in the First Amendment Clinic who sued the Justice Department, and won, were featured in the New York Times.

First Amendment Clinic participantsStudents and instructors in the 2013-14 First Amendment Clinic sued the Justice Department to unseal settlements with big banks and corporations.


Kevin Donovan and Joby Ryan take the ice bucket challenge.Career Services’ Kevin Donovan and Joby Ryan ’05 (now leadership gifts officer with the Law School Foundation) kicked the year off by taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Also during the fall, Professor Deirdre Enright ’92 spoke bluntly about false convictions for the groundbreaking “Serial” podcast.

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.

At the end of the year, the mystery owner of “Gunner the Wonderdog” was revealed.

Caitlin Eberhardt and GunnerCaitlin Eberhardt ’15, with plush canine companion Gunner, prepares to leave law school and the exam tradition she began.


Four UVA Law students clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court for the 2015 term.

Galen Bascom '13, Andrew Kilberg ’14, Jonathan Urick '13 and Ben Tyson J.D.-MBA '14Andrew Kilberg ’14, Galen Bascom ’13, Ben Tyson J.D.-MBA ’14 and Jonathan Urick ’13 clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court for the 2015 term.

Professor Richard Bonnie ’69, with the help of students, took on a new, long-term mental health services project.

The Law School remembered Justice Antonin Scalia, a former UVA Law faculty member and 2008 Jefferson Medal recipient, who died in February.


Dean Risa Goluboff took the helm of the Law School as the first female dean.

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic celebrated 10 years of arguing and winning important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Law Library launched its online library of 375 books hand-picked by UVA founder Thomas Jefferson.


In the spring, law students aided an alumna in defending a victim of the tragic “Unite the Right” rally, which occurred the previous summer.

A team of UVA Law students became the first American team to win the International and European Tax Moot Court. (A UVA team won again in 2019.)

The UVA Black Law Students Association won national chapter of the year honors for the second straight year and for the fifth time since 2002.

And U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer spoke to law students.


The Law School launched its “Common Law” podcast, hosted by Dean Risa Goluboff and Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06, in the fall, with the help of special guest John Grisham.

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy helped kick off the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy, telling the audience the system still works. The center was launched with a record $44 million gift from Martha Lubin Karsh ’81 and Bruce Karsh ’80, which also funded scholarships and professorships.

Students and alumni working with the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville won important victories to stop drivers’ license suspensions for unpaid court fines and in the interest of the health of women in prison.


That brings us to this year. For more, read our Year in Review, but we’d like to think it was best encapsulated in UVA Law’s latest rankings from Princeton Review. The Law School is No. 1 in Best Professors, Best Classroom Experience and Best Quality of Life.

Need more of a refresher course? Check out these history pieces and wrap-ups from previous years.

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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