Fall 2012 issue
Dean Liz Magill Takes the Helm and Urges Students to Find Their Passion
For someone who likes the study of law, a clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court can be akin to being a kid in a candy store. For Mary Elizabeth "Liz" Magill, Stanford Law School's new Dean, clerking with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an incredibly exhilarating experience.
"I was clerking for a living legend," she explains. "I knew lawyers could prompt transformative change, but working for someone like Justice Ginsburg, who in fact did change the law as it relates to the treatment of women and men, was inspiring."
Magill recounted the famous story relating to Justice Ginsburg's last appearance as an attorney before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978. The case was Duren v. Missouri, which challenged laws and practices that made jury duty voluntary for women in that state. Toward the end of the oral argument, one of the justices asked the last question, "You won't settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?" Justice Ginsburg silently took her seat but shared that she thought of a good comeback on the drive home: "No, Mr. Justice, tokens won’t do."
Clearly, Magill's clerkship with one of the most influential public interest lawyers in recent history has left a lasting impression. Justice Ginsburg's role as a mentor and teacher reinforced Magill's desire to teach; even before the clerkship, she was drawn to teaching future lawyers.
Magill states, "[Justice Ginsburg] is a natural teacher. She would call her clerks together after the justices' conference and explain what happened. She didn't have to do that, yet it was such a gift to a student of the law."
As a teacher, Magill hopes to both inspire students and help unravel mysteries for them. She shares that she has long admired the special skills and talents of those in the “learned profession” of law. Having come from a family of lawyers (her father is retired Judge Frank Magill of the 8th Circuit and several of her siblings are lawyers as well), it may not be a huge surprise that she ultimately chose this path.
After her clerkship with Justice Ginsburg (which had followed a clerkship with Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the 4th Circuit), Magill joined the faculty at her alma mater, the University of Virginia School of Law. While she didn't practice law after her clerkships, Magill did spend four years before law school working on Capitol Hill with a number of lawyers. Upon her graduation from Yale University with a degree in history, Magill worked for Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota. She observes, "I saw the important work that lawyers were doing, like drafting legislation and advocating for changes to legislation, and it really heightened my admiration for the law. If I had chosen to practice before entering academia, it would have been in government."
As to advice she might offer to students interested in public interest careers, Magill says, "In law school, I think students should be trying to find what they care about and what interests them. When you wake up at 40 and have followed what has most interested and excited you, that's something really special."
She concludes, "Whether someone spends all of their working life at a public interest organization, in a firm, a corporation or a university, I think all of us should regularly think about what we are doing with our special training in law to serve the greater good."
Dean Magill began her tenure on September 1, 2012. Photo courtesy of Brian Smale.
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SLS Students Inspired Effort to Reform California's Three Strikes Law, Faculty Lead the Charge
California voters will decide this Fall whether to reform our notorious Three Strikes Law so that subsequent nonviolent minor offenses, like shoplifting socks, will not condemn people to life in prison. Proposition 36 is gaining traction and has already secured major support from law enforcement officials across the state. Yet what is most exciting about this initiative for SLS readers is the fact that the campaign grew organically from the work of Stanford Law School students and faculty who were representing individual clients through the Stanford Three Strikes Project.
The Stanford Three Strikes Project is the only legal organization in the country devoted to representing individuals serving life sentences under California's Three Strikes law. The Project represents defendants charged under the Three Strikes law with minor, non-violent felonies at every stage of the criminal process: at trial, on appeal, and in state and federal post-conviction habeas corpus proceedings. The Project also works, on behalf of its clients in collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
(which is also its partner on this initiative), to reform the harshest aspects of the Three Strikes law. The Project has garnered attention nationally, including a profile in the New York Times Magazine in 2010.
Michael Romano, JD '03, who directs the Three Strikes Project, explains, "The initiative was inspired by the hard work of Stanford Law School students. We would never have been in position [to launch a statewide reform effort] if it weren't for over a hundred students who have been part of the Three Strikes Project since it started in 2006. We started off representing individuals sentenced to unconscionable sentences for very minor crimes and it quickly became evident to everyone involved that wholesale reform was desperately needed."
He adds, "Professor David Mills led the effort to turn the individual representation aspect of the project into wholesale legislative reform. His vision, energy, and support has turned this into an opportunity to help nearly 3,000 individuals sentenced to life in prison for minor third offenses."
Mills, Romano, Susan Champion, JD '11 (who serves as the Three Strikes Project Fellow), and Stanford Law School students are working closely with NAACP LDF colleagues and a coalition of bipartisan supporters to pass the initiative.
Mills believes, "This project and initiative represents the major civil rights issue of our day."
The original Three Strikes law was passed in California in 1994 and while other states have also passed similar laws, California is the only one in which a misdemeanor crime can be made into a third strike. Thus, as advocates explain on the Yes on 36 website, "Prop. 36 will close a loophole in the Three Strikes law so that it reflects voters' original intent to put violent and dangerous criminals behind bars forever. In the current system, defendants can receive life sentences for almost any crime. People have been sentenced to life in prison for shoplifting a pair of socks or stealing bread. Under Prop. 36, repeat criminals will get life in prison for serious or violent third strike crimes, and double the ordinary sentence if the third strike is not serious or violent. Prop. 36 brings California in line with other states’ repeat offender laws."
Stanford Law School students helped draft the initiative, set policies, and design strategy. Romano notes that students have been involved at every step, starting more than 18 months ago. "Students have been there from conception of the best way to reform the law to drafting the statute, to working with media on publicity and generating the movement." Project students have been quoted in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times and appeared on national TV.
The latest polling shows that there is more than 70% approval in favor of the initiative, but as Romano observes, "It's still a long time until Election Day and most initiatives fail in California. So students will be working on trying to pass the initiative in the Fall and *knock on wood* will be working on its implementation after its passage."
Any law students or alumni interested in helping with passage and implementation after Election Day should contact Romano via email.
Graphic icon is courtesy of the www.yeson36.org website.
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Register now! Fall Public Service Awards Dinner and International Public Interest Symposium Will be Held in October
Our largest event of the year is just around the corner! Register now for our Fall Public Service Awards dinner, honoring Judge Patricia M. Wald and David Sapp, JD '05 on Thursday, Oct. 11. Faculty, current students, staff and alumni are offered complimentary admission. All others are asked to contribute based on a sliding scale. Please RSVP here.
We also invite you to join us again on Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13 for our Advancing Gender Equality Through Human Rights symposium. MCLE credit is available to attorneys. Admission is complimentary for all guests. Please register here.
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Adventurous Students Gain New Perspective and Share Legal Skills Around the World
One hundred and ten Stanford Law School students received public interest funding grants this past summer to volunteer for public interest employers. While some stayed locally in the San Francisco Bay Area, we had many who ventured much farther. For instance, we had twenty students travel abroad to Bhutan, Brazil, Cambodia, China, France, Ethiopia, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Uganda and Venezuela, including three students at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and two students at the International Law and Policy Institute in Oslo.
Students participated in a range of legal work, from providing direct services to Iraqi Refugees in Amman to assessing the impact of small-scale artisanal gold mining projects in Cambodia. Attenas Burrola, who interned at Justiça Global in Rio de Janeiro, said of her experience:“It definitely gave me a more refined view of human rights violations internationally and nationally -- I think one of the things that most struck me while in Brazil was the types of violations that were being litigated...”
Pictured above is Monique Loy, JD '13, who spent her summer at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Hague.
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Levin Center's First International Practitioner-in-Residence Learns From Bay Area Legal Providers
The Levin Center was honored to host as our first International Public Interest Practitioner-in-Residence Beijing-based attorney Wendy Zhang, who serves as the Deputy Director of Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center, Chief Program Officer of Beijing Zhicheng Migrant Workers' Legal Aid and Research Center, and Secretary General of Rural Areas Rule of Law Institute of Beijing Law Society.
Wendy's organization is the largest legal aid provider in China and has played a significant role in the development of the public interest lawyering field in China.
Titi Liu launched this new program to offer international public interest lawyers an opportunity to come to Stanford Law School as practitioners-in-residence, engage with our faculty and students, and learn from the diverse group of non-profit leaders working here in the Bay Area.
Wendy was based at Stanford Law School for one week in July. During her week-long stay, Wendy was able to visit several public interest legal organizations, grantmaking foundations, and law schools, including Asian Law Caucus, Legal Services for Children, Legal Advocates for Children and Youth of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, OneJustice, the Tides Center, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center, Stanford Law School and Berkeley Law School.
Wendy explained, "By marrying in-depth discussion and the direct shadow experience with my long-term experiences in China as a pioneering public interest lawyer,I learned so much more than legal knowledge. More importantly, numerous new ideas for organizational development were inspired, like researching and promoting guardianship reform, piloting fund-raising from private sectors, piloting more diversified e-advocacy strategies, and exploring models for collaboration among law schools, pro bono lawyers and public interest legal organizations."
Pictured above are Levin Center staff members with Wendy Zhang. From left to right: Titi Liu, Wendy Zhang, Negar Katirai, Anna Wang, and Diane Chin.
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