An Ode to 2019

UVA Law’s Top Stories of the Year
UVA Law School

Photo by Sanjay Suchak

December 11, 2019

The University of Virginia School of Law is ending the decade on a high note. Check out some of the top stories of 2019.

Graduates’ employment success and a focus on academics helped fuel a new high in rankings.

Though rankings aren’t the only way to measure the school’s value, UVA’s strengths shone through.

The Law School now ranks No. 1 in Best Classroom Experience, and continues to rank No. 1 in Best Professors and Best Quality of Life, according to The Princeton Review’s annual law school rankings.

Above the Law’s 2019 law school rankings, focused almost entirely on employment outcomes, placed UVA Law at No. 1. Graduates in the Class of 2018 are No. 1 among law schools in landing federal clerkships and jobs at large firms. A notable 20% of alumni who graduated in 2019 are serving in judicial clerkships nationwide, the highest percentage for a single class since at least 2008. In total, a record 103 alumni are clerking this term.

In July, J.D. graduates taking the New York bar for the first time had a 100% pass rate. (UVA graduates take the New York bar more than any other state exam.)

A capital campaign honoring the future was launched, on the heels of a giving milestone.

The Law School officially launched its Honor the Future campaign in October with a $400 million goal. As part of the broader $5 billion UVA campaign, the effort will position the school to thrive well into its third century. UVA Law alum Martha Lubin Karsh ’81 (COL ’78) is serving as UVA’s campaign co-chair.

The Law School Foundation received a total of $23.6 million in gifts — the second-highest amount in school history — during the 2018-19 annual giving campaign. During the campaign, which finished June 30, more than half of alumni gave for the 14th consecutive year.

The community made its mark at the Supreme Court.

Social Security claimants will have an easier time finding lawyers willing to help them, thanks to a unanimous victory in January in Culbertson v. Berryhill for the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. Also in January, the clinic brought Quarles v. United States, a sentencing enhancement case. In December, the justices heard oral argument in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org Inc., the clinic’s 17th case before the court since the clinic’s inception in 2006.

Professor Toby Heytens ’00, serving as Virginia’s solicitor general, won two cases for the commonwealth handed down the same day: Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, which addressed standing in a redistricting lawsuit, and Virginia Uranium Inc. v. Warren, which tackled federal preemption over state law. Heytens and his team were named co-winners of the National Association of Attorneys General’s 2019 Supreme Court Best Brief Awards for Bethune-Hill.

Professor Cale Jaffe ’01, director of the Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic, co-authored two briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, in County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund and in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian. Professors Richard Bonnie ’69 and Douglas Laycock also co-authored briefs with the Supreme Court, in Kahler v. Kansas, an insanity defense case, and Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a First Amendment case, respectively.

Jessica Wagner ’15 is clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito for the 2019 term.

Faculty members shaped the law …

Professor Saikrishna Prakash testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in June on questions of presidential power in the Mueller report. Professors John Duffy, Michael Livermore and George Yin also testified before Congress.

Prakash also appeared with Frederick Schauer, Deborah Hellman, Michael Gilbert, Ashley Deeks and John Harrison in a series of lectures aimed at explaining and exploring impeachment.

Professor G. Edward White’s third and final installment in his “Law in American History” series focuses on rapid changes in the 20th century. Livermore collaborated on a new book, “Law as Data: Computation, Text, and the Future of Legal Analysis,” and legal historian Jessica Lowe published “Murder in the Shenandoah.” Professor Kimberly J. Robinson’sA Federal Right to Education” will be published Dec. 17.

Professor Douglas Laycock, one of the nation’s leading experts on the law of remedies, is serving as a reporter with the American Law Institute’s new restatement project on torts.

… earned accolades …

Professor Frederick Schauer received an honorary doctorate from the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.

Barbara Spellman, a professor of law and psychology, was named a recipient of the Women in Cognitive Science Leadership Award.

Professor George Geis’ paper on blockchain technology was named one of the top 10 corporate and securities articles of 2018.

An article by Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06 was included in the 2018-19 edition of the “First Amendment Law Handbook.”

Three new endowed chairs tied to the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy will fund the work of professors Michael Gilbert, Micah Schwartzman ’05 and Mila Versteeg.

… served the greater good …

Professor Dayna Bowen Matthew ’87 was named director of the University’s new Equity Center, which seeks to build better relationships between UVA and the Charlottesville community and tangibly redress racial and socioeconomic inequality. In a separate project, Matthew and five students helped draft the Environmental Justice Act of 2019, a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Professors Michael Gilbert and Deborah Hellman are among a team of UVA scholars fighting corruption through a new conduit for related research and education efforts.

Professor Michal Barzuza was named a research member of the Brussels-based European Corporate Governance Institute.

… and launched a podcast (or two or three) — phew.

“Common Law” launched in February with hosts Dean Risa Goluboff and Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06, and began its second season in the fall. (Catch up on all 15 episodes before the second half of season 2 starts next semester.)

The Admissions Office launched its own “Law Schooled” podcast featuring interviews with UVA Law community members, and the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center added “Let’s Talk Public Service.”

On the eve of a centennial of coeducation in 2020, the school kicked off a celebration of women.

The latest issue of UVA Lawyer follows the career paths of 10 alumnae, details the history of women at UVA Law and shares other stories to celebrate 100 years of coeducation at the school.

Thanks to the generosity of Nancy L. Buc ’69, the first of 20 new UVA Research Professorships in Democracy and Equity will reside at the Law School. It will be the first professorship named by and for a UVA Law alumna.

Students traveled around the world to help others and gain knowledge.

Students in the Human Rights Study Project took part in a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Nepal in January, opening their eyes to the state of reforms since the country’s 10-year civil war ended in 2006.

Members of the Black Law Students Association returned to Cape Town, South Africa, in January to aid those displaced by apartheid for the organization’s annual service trip.

Students with the International Human Rights Clinic traveled to Geneva in April to present their research at sessions of a U.N. committee on migrants.

A group of 16 students traveled to Israel to learn more about how the nation’s laws shape its entrepreneurial culture.

Members of the UVA Law community sought and supported justice.

A Virginia General Assembly decision in April effectively wraps up a multiyear public interest campaign led by alumni to end license revocation for unpaid court fees and costs.

Alumni and students won an injunction in January to enforce adequate health care for female prisoners in Fluvanna County.

The Innocence Project at UVA Law celebrated a decade of freeing the falsely convicted and hired Juliet Hatchett ’15 to serve as a staff attorney for the Innocence Project.

In December the school marked 10 years of the Program in Law and Public Service, which has supported 259 alumni and current fellows interested in public service careers.

New faculty joined the school.

Former Vice Dean M. Elizabeth Magill ’95, the subject of “The Last Word” in spring’s UVA Lawyer, rejoined the faculty and became the University’s first female provost.

Kimberly J. Robinson, an acclaimed scholar and speaker on civil rights and education, joined the faculty in the fall.

Kevin Cope, an expert in international law who develops new legal data for cutting-edge research, joined the faculty as an associate professor of law.

Sarah Shalf ’01 was named the new director of clinical programs at the Law School.

Scott Ballenger ’96 joined the faculty as director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic.

Andrew Block became director of the State and Local Government Law Clinic.

Leon Szeptycki rejoined the faculty and serves as associate director of the UVA Environmental Resilience Institute.

Recent graduates earned honors …

Daniel Richardson ’18 was chosen to serve as one of five Bristow Fellows in the Office of the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice.

McCoy Pitt ’13 began his clerkship at the International Court of Justice for Judge Yuji Iwasawa S.J.D. ’97.

Clayton “Tex” Pasley ’17 was named the 18th Powell Fellow in Legal Services, funding a role that will help him protect tenants in Chicago facing eviction.

… and alumni further into their careers made headlines.

Robert Mueller ’73 completed his Mueller report and testified before Congress with the aid of trusted deputy Aaron Zebley ’96.

Kentuckians elected Andy Beshear ’03 their new governor, while locally, longtime UVA Law lecturer Jim Hingeley ’76 was elected Albemarle County commonwealth’s attorney.

The NFL named Dasha Smith ’98 its executive vice president and chief people officer.

Daniel Bress ’05 was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Finis St. John IV ’82 became chancellor of the University of Alabama system.

Elissa Cadish ’89 took her seat on the Nevada Supreme Court in January, and Patricia Devaney ’93 joined the South Dakota Supreme Court in May.

In his speech in honor of receiving the 2019 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law, U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves ’89 gave a vociferous defense of the judiciary.

Angela Ciolfi ’03, a Powell Fellow and longtime UVA Law lecturer, was named executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Former Environmental Protection Agency General Counsel Avi Garbow ’92 joined Patagonia as its first environmental advocate, where he works with General Counsel Hilary Dessouky ’97.

Mortimer Caplin ’40, a professor emeritus who served as IRS commissioner under President John F. Kennedy, died July 15, just days after reaching his 103rd birthday.

Students made their mark as leaders and future lawyers …

The UVA Law team won the International and European Tax Moot Court for the second straight year, and it remains the only U.S. team to ever win the competition.

Rachel Barnes J.D.-MBA ’21 was named national chair of the National Black Law Students Association.

Henry Dickman ’20 and Megan Mers ’20 won the 91st William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition.

Michele St Julien ’20 was named the recipient of the 2019 Gregory H. Swanson Award.

Kunchok Dolma ’21 won a New York Emmy for producing a video demonstrating a working couple’s fight for employee benefits.

A total of 166 students worked in public service jobs over the summer, funded by more than $700,000 in Public Interest Law Association grants.

… and they cheered on the UVA men’s hoops team to a historic win in the NCAA national championship.

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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