10 Changemaking Moments at UVA Law That Inspired Us

Illustration

Illustration by Warren Craghead

December 19, 2022

University of Virginia School of Law community members used their talents to serve the greater good in 2022. Stories from the past year highlight 10 such changemakers and efforts to improve others’ lives.

UVA Law Levels the Playing Field for First-Gen Pre-Law College Students

UVA Law launched the Roadmap Scholars Initiative, a new program aimed at helping college students who lack connections to the legal profession prepare to apply to elite law schools. With financial support from alumni and The Jefferson Trust, the first 12 students in residence last summer were introduced to legal reasoning, legal research and writing, and several substantive areas. This year, they’re preparing for the LSAT and next summer they’ll return to work on their law school applications and serve in legal internships.

Innocence Clinic Work Has Banner Year on Behalf of High-Profile Clients

Seven Innocence Project clients were exonerated in 2022, and six received more than $6 million in compensation from the state government. The clinic also celebrated the release of Adnan Syed, whose case they had investigated for the “Serial” podcast. The clinic’s longtime leaders were recognized with UVA’s Collaborative Excellence in Public Service Awards.

Professor Works To Increase Participation of Low-Income Voters

Professor Bertrall Ross’ paper “Voter Data, Democratic Inequality, and the Risk of Political Violence” sparked a pro-democracy project to widen voter outreach efforts. When his research showed that low-income voters are being inadvertently shut out of the voting process because of how campaigns use voter history data, he put together ideas to incentivize campaigns to switch things up.

Appellate Clinic Sets Precedent for “Employer’s Kid’s Behavior”

The Appellate Litigation Clinic won a Fourth Circuit appeal on behalf of a client who faced racial harassment from her employer’s family. The students who argued the case won their client the right to a full trial, and set legal precedent for similar cases.

Law Student Leads Successful Campaign to Amend UVA Honor Code

Christopher Benos ’22 was influenced by his legal studies, including the values of self-governance and restorative justice, when he proposed changing the University’s 180-year-old honor system from a one-strike system.

Vice Dean Tackles Fake News Problem With Economic Solution

Vice Dean Michael Gilbert’s research led to the creation of a nonprofit, Pledged, that would allow participating organizations to offer rewards to anyone who proves the organization published a falsehood. He and his co-author are now working through the financial details of how such a system would work.

Clinic Helps Free Environmental Activists in Honduras

In a case brought to light by the International Human Rights Clinic, six environmental activists’ convictions were overturned in Honduras after members of Congress and the State Department took up the students’ report and pressured Honduran authorities.

Latin American Law Organization Helps Migrant Farmworkers

LALO partnered with the Legal Aid Justice Center to restart the Migrant Farmworker Project. Through the project, Molly Keck ’24 and other students are helping to investigate poor working conditions on behalf of a vulnerable population.

As Ambassador to Poland, Alum Carries On Family Legacy

Mark F. Brzezinski ’91, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, handled a wave of immigration and diplomatic challenges after war erupted between Ukraine and Russia. His Polish-born father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, and his grandfather was a Polish diplomat to Ukraine.

Professor, ALI Recommend Pro-Democracy Electoral Changes

Professor Saikrishna Prakash was part of an American Law Institute initiative recommending changes to the Electoral Count Act. The project proposed principles “in an effort to contribute to a constitutionally sound bipartisan consensus in Congress,” including limiting objections to electoral votes that are grounded in explicit constitutional requirements.

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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