So Long, 2020

The Year at UVA Law
UVA Law School

Photo by Sanjay Suchak

December 15, 2020

The University of Virginia School of Law celebrated another year of milestones, even as the Law School community rose to meet the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out some of the top stories of 2020.

The Law School retained and built upon its success.

For the first time in the Law School’s history, women made up a majority of the first-year class — fitting timing for the school’s coeducation centennial. The Class of 2023 is also the most racially diverse in a decade.

The Law School remains No. 1 in Best Professors, Best Quality of Life and Best Classroom Experience, according to the 2021 Princeton Review law school rankings.

A record 109 alumni are clerking during the 2020 court term, building upon last term’s milestone of 104. Overall, 40 alumni are clerking in federal appellate circuit courts, also a record. Two alumni are clerking this term at the U.S. Supreme Court: Daniel Richardson ’18 for Justice Stephen Breyer and Maria Monaghan ’17 for Justice Samuel Alito.

UVA Law changed gears for the pandemic and stepped up to help.

To prepare for fall, the Law School implemented hybrid learning for online and in-person classes, fashioned event spaces into classrooms, and installed and reconfigured equipment. (See snapshots from the semester)

As states across the country struggle with significant budget shortfalls due to the pandemic, a coalition of tax scholars, including Professors Andrew Hayashi and Ruth Mason, has come together to provide policy recommendations to help ease the crisis. 

The Law School led a University effort to provide information to contract employees seeking unemployment benefits in the wake of the novel coronavirus.

The Public Interest Law Association moved its annual auction online and raised $20,000 for public service internships.

Although the tournament was canceled, the 37th annual North Grounds Softball League Invitational raised $20,000 for charity.

The Student Bar Association and the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs recognized eight students as “Unsung Heroes” for making a difference in the lives of their peers and in the greater community.

Traditions honoring exemplars of law continued, inspiring students.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman to serve on the high court, was named the 2020 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law.

As orientation speaker, Virginia Sen. Jennifer McClellan ’97, a gubernatorial candidate, welcomed the Class of 2023 and other new students to UVA Law via Zoom.

Faculty members earned accolades ...

The University of Virginia appointed Risa Goluboff to a second term as dean.

Professors Ashley Deeks, Deborah Hellman and Kimberly Jenkins Robinson were elected to the American Law Institute, for a total of 25 faculty members are affiliated with the ALI.

Professor Frederick Schauer was named a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.

Professors Pierre-Hugues Verdier and Mila Versteeg were cited in a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Professor Michael Gilbert earned an All-University Teaching Award.

Two UVA law faculty members, Dayna Bowen Matthew ’87 and A. Benjamin Spencer, were named deans at George Washington University and William & Mary law schools, respectively.

Cynthia Nicoletti, a legal historian and professor of law, was named a recipient of the UVA Student Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

Professor Joe Fore ’11 was elected a board member of the Legal Writing Institute.

Professor Darryl Brown ’90 will conduct research at the University of Cambridge as a Thomas Jefferson Visiting Fellow in spring 2021.

... were joined by new colleagues …

Professor Danielle Citron is a pioneer in the area of digital privacy.

Professor Lawrence B. Solum is a legal theorist whose ideas about how to interpret the Constitution and the purpose of law have influenced scholars worldwide.

Professor Naomi Cahn, an influential scholar in the field of family law, was named to two new professorships promoting the rule of law and democratic ideals.

Professor Kristen Eichensehr writes and teaches about cybersecurity, foreign relations and separation-of-powers issues.

Professor Richard M. Re is an expert in criminal procedure, federal courts and constitutional law.

Professor Cathy Hwang is an expert in business law whose work merges theory with real-world practice.

Professor Megan Stevenson is an economist with a scholarly focus on criminal law.

Professor Thomas Frampton is an expert in criminal law and constitutional procedure.

Natalie Blazer ’08 joined the Law School as head of the school’s Admissions Office.

Leah Gould joined the Law School as a director of public service.

Laura Howell ’11 and Adriana Vito joined UVA Law as a director of admissions and assistant dean for graduate studies, respectively.

… launched new academic endeavors …

New academic centers at UVA Law will serve as hubs for faculty research, student engagement, and intellectual exchange. Among them, the Center for Law & Philosophy, directed by Professor Deborah Hellman, will serve as a focus for one of the strongest groups of legal theorists in the nation. Professor Ashley Deeks was named director of the National Security Law Center. Professor Naomi Cahn will serve as the inaugural director of the Family Law Center. The Program in Law, Communities and the Environment, or PLACE, led by Professor Jonathan Cannon, will work to examine and help solve community-level environmental dilemmas. The Center for Public Law and Political Economy, led by Professor Michael Gilbert, applies economics to the study of law and politics. The Virginia Center for Tax Law, led by Professor Andrew Hayashi, will bring to the fore faculty scholarship in tax law.

Professor Crystal Shin ’10 will direct a new clinic focused on holistic juvenile defense. A new Federal Criminal Sentence Reduction Clinic was launched to handle the onslaught of compassionate release cases instigated by the COVID-19 crisis in prisons.

... gave back through public service …

Changes to the Law School’s public service programming will better prepare students for careers in the public interest while strengthening the school’s career counseling services. The school’s Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center and Program in Law and Public Service joined forces under one leader, Assistant Dean for Public Service Annie Kim ’99.

Professor Paul Stephan ’77 is serving as special counsel to the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Professor Margaret Foster Riley was appointed to a new National Institutes of Health advisory committee that’s exploring challenges with emerging biotechnologies.

Professor Thomas Nachbar was named to the Federal Communications Commission advisory subcommittee that promotes the resiliency of the nation’s communications system.

Professor Rachel Harmon co-authored a new report offering concrete ways to implement police reform.

… and published new books.

In his book “The Living Presidency: An Originalist Argument Against Its Ever-Expanding Powers,” Professor Saikrishna Prakash explains why the executive branch’s power has swelled in recent decades, why he thinks that is a problem and how Congress might respond to defend its authority.

Professor Mila Versteeg finds in her co-authored book, “How Constitutional Rights Matter,” that citizens’ ability and willingness to push back are essential to constitutional protections.

Global Banks on Trial: U.S. Prosecutions and the Remaking of International Finance,” by Professor Pierre-Hugues Verdier, shows how the United States made foreign banks pay following the 2008 financial crisis.

The federal government should revive the use of cost-benefit analysis when crafting regulations that affect the American public, says Professor Michael Livermore in his co-authored book “Reviving Rationality: Saving Cost-Benefit Analysis for the Sake of the Environment.”

The Restatement and Beyond: The Past, Present, and Future of Foreign Relations Law,” co-edited by Professor Paul Stephan ’77, puts into scholarly context the massive foreign relations law project he recently helped lead.

The Law School community notched progress for justice and public service.

The Innocence Project at UVA Law welcomed to freedom client Rojai Fentress, who the clinic’s directors say was falsely convicted of murder as a teenager.

Professor Thomas Frampton won a man his freedom from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in September, from the classroom, as his students looked on.

Clinic students scored important victories for underrepresented communities during the 2019-20 school year.

Virginia’s wrongly convicted now stand a better chance of being declared innocent thanks to the policy efforts of the Innocence Project.

UVA Law students researched racial inequality in Virginia and presented their findings to a governor’s commission focused on the issue.

The Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic joined an effort to protect a historic African American schoolhouse.

Students in the International Human Rights Clinic helped shape new U.N. guidance on the relationship between advances in science and human rights.

The Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship was established at UVA Law, adding to the mix of opportunities that will enable scores of law students and recent graduates to work in public service jobs.

The eight students in the Human Rights Study Project ventured overseas in early January to learn about human rights law in India.

Members of the Black Law Students Association returned to Cape Town, South Africa, in January to aid efforts aimed at reducing violence.

The Law School’s grant program supporting summer public interest work gave a record $710,351 to 168 students.

Claire Blumenson ’11, Chioma Chukwu ’12 and Chris Kavanaugh ’06 received Shaping Justice Awards in recognition of their careers in public service.

Faculty and alumni have been working to solve problems in our democracy, including the criminal justice system as this alumni discussion and other articles in this year’s issues of UVA Lawyer detailed.

The school explored its march toward a more diverse community and recognized path-breaking alumni.

As the Black Law Students Association celebrates 50 years at UVA Law, founding members Margaret Poles Spencer ’72 and Bobby Vassar ’72 described how it all began and the group’s immediate impact. Photos through the years show how BLSA has been a force in recruiting Black students and faculty, and creating a sense of belonging for diverse community members.

The school memorialized John Merchant ’58, the first Black graduate of UVA Law, who opened doors for minority golfers.

Mildred Robinson, UVA Law’s first African American female tenured professor, retired after almost 35 years on the faculty.

UVA Law explored how three women — Rose May Davis, Catherine Lipop and Elizabeth Tompkins ’23 — opened the door for women at the Law School a century ago.

The Law School instituted the Elaine R. Jones ’70 Scholarship, named in honor of school’s first Black alumna. Genesis Moore ’23 is the inaugural recipient.

Chloe Fife ’22 was the first transgender woman to become president of Lambda Law Alliance.

Sara Phipps ’20 graduated and fulfilled a legacy as a member of the first multigenerational Black family with both parents to have attended UVA Law.

Justice Cleo Powell ’82, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Virginia, was chosen to deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2021.

And alumni continued to blaze trails.

Judge Yuji Iwasawa S.J.D. ’97 was reelected to the International Court of Justice.

Standout students made their mark at UVA Law and among their peers.

UVA Law won its third consecutive victory in the International and European Tax Moot Court.

Avery Rasmussen ’21 accepted a clerkship with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh for the 2023 term.

The Federalist Society was named winner of the James Madison Award for national chapter of the year for the first time.

The Black Law Students Association won national chapter of the year honors for the sixth time since 2002. Former chapter President Rachel Barnes J.D.-MBA ’21 was elected to a full term as NBLSA national chair.

Sam Long ’22, a Marine Corps veteran, was named a 2020 Tillman Scholar.

Erin Seagears ’20 was named this year’s recipient of the Gregory H. Swanson Award.

Kevin Jackson ’20 is helping to support immigrant children in Georgia’s foster care system as the 19th Powell Fellow in Legal Services.

Jasmine Lee ’20 was named this year’s recipient of the Rosenbloom Award, established to honor students with a strong academic record who have significantly enhanced the academic experience of their peers.

Katharine Janes ’21 was elected president of the Student Bar Association.

Arjun Ogale ’21 was selected as editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review.

The school celebrated many students in the Class of 2020 who made an impression.

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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