Mary Wood

Since the Law School’s Karsh Center for Law and Democracy launched in November 2018, the nonpartisan legal institution has been busy fulfilling its mission of promoting civil discourse and democratic dialogue, ethics and integrity in public office, and respect for the rule of law.

“It’s an exciting time for us, and we’ve launched several efforts that build upon the center’s core values,” said Professor Micah Schwartzman ’05, who leads the center.

The center has hired Nicholas Almendares, who holds a Ph.D. in politics and a J.D. from New York University, as program director, and added three endowed chairs. Schwartzman, Michael Gilbert and Mila Versteeg are the inaugural Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professors, roles that rotate every three years.

The center’s recent and upcoming events include:

  • A three-part conversation series in the fall of 2019 offering a primer on impeachment, which featured Professors Frederick Schau­er, Saikrishna Prakash, Ashley Deeks, John Harrison, Deborah Hellman and Michael Gilbert.
  • “Speech Inside the Schoolhouse Gates: 50 Years After Tinker v. Des Moines,” with key­note speaker and Supreme Court plaintiff Mary Beth Tinker, a Jan. 24 conference led by the Virginia Law Review, with support from the center.
  • “Illiberal Politics in America,” a Feb. 21 conference that was co-organized with Zack Beauchamp, a senior correspondent at Vox, and that brought together scholars and journalists from The Atlantic, Slate, Lawfare and others.
  • “Harmed or Protected? Religion Clauses and Religious Minorities,” a Feb. 27 panel with Melissa Rogers of the Brookings Institution, Fred Gedicks of Brigham Young University, and Richard Foltin of the Religious Freedom Center, that explored the impact of the First Amendment’s religion clauses. The event was moderated by Schwartzman and co-sponsored with several Law School student organizations.
  • The May Gathering, a colloquium with schol­ars from across the country discussing emerg­ing threats to American democracy.
  • An event featuring former presidential can­didates Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina at the Tom Tom Summit & Festival was post­poned indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The center launched with an interview of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy conducted by financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein. It was broadcast on Virginia’s public television channels, as well as on “The David Rubenstein Show.”

Watch or Listen to Karsh Center Events

Democracy Lab Helps Make Corruption CLEAR

Professors Deborah Hellman and Michael Gilbert are inaugural scholars in UVA’s Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability, and the Rule of Law, also known as CLEAR. The lab looks at the “causes, methods and consequences of corruption,” according to its website, in collaboration with other UVA professors and departments, as part of UVA’s overarching Democracy Initiative, which aims to study and advance the prospects of democracy around the world.

CLEAR launched its public-facing efforts with the one-day conference “Corruption and Institutional Decay,” held Nov. 19 at the Miller Center. The event featured William Browder, a businessman who attempted to expose the fraud of Russian oligarchs and senior government officials.

Browder’s related activism on behalf of his attorney, who died in a Russian prison from alleged torture and medical neglect, persuaded Congress to pass the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which empowers the U.S. to sanction human rights offenders by freezing their assets and barring entry to the country.

Gilbert and Hellman plan to teach a class on corruption in the next academic year that will incorporate campaign finance and election law, criminal law and constitutional law.

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