Martin Luther King Jr., and Civil Disobedience: A Talk by Dean Douglas

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On Tuesday, January 19th, students and staff had the privilege of hearing Dean Davison Douglas, Dean of the Law School, speak on the legal implications of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Dean Douglas has an extensive background in Constitutional History and Civil Rights Law, especially concerning race in America. Knowing of Dean Douglas’ expertise in this area, I was grateful to have the opportunity to attend the event and learn about the legal implications of King’s nonviolent forms of protest.

Dean Douglas set the scene by explaining that in the spring of 1963, Birmingham, Alabama was the site of the Birmingham Campaign, one of the most influential movements of the Civil Rights Era. In continuation of the peaceful marches and sit-ins that were occurring, King sought a parade permit to lawfully march down the city streets. Birmingham enjoined the demonstration by issuing an injunction. King was warned that if he disobeyed the court order, he would forfeit his right to dispute the merits of the injunction. Still, King and a formidable crowd of protestors walked along the sidewalks. They did not wave signs, and they did not chant. They simply walked, and when police arrived to stop the protest, the crowds were viciously attacked with fire hoses and police dogs. King was arrested at two o’clock on that Good Friday, as a Christ-like figure being punished for taking a stand.

MLK1While in his dark, desolate cell, King found out about a letter that eight white clergymen wrote attacking him. In response, King penned his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Dean Douglas explained that the theme of the piece was “Why we can’t wait,” wherein King described that for the oppressed African American population, “wait” really meant “never.” African Americans would never get the rights they deserved if they continued to passively wait for them. For this reason, King had developed his practices of nonviolent civil disobedience.

As Dean Douglas conveyed, Dr. King believed that there were specific criteria to be adhered to for civil disobedience to be effective. First, one who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, so as to make a bold statement. Second, a person must break that law lovingly. Following Gandhi’s nonviolent system of civil disobedience, King believed the cause was best furthered when the protestors showed respect to their oppressors. Third, when one breaks an unjust law, they must be willing to accept the consequences. This aspect shows dignity, and it binds together the three criteria into one powerful message.

MLK2Dean Douglas translated King’s philosophy of civil disobedience to modern day examples. He discussed the armed ranchers in Oregon, who are still in the midst of a standoff over rights to grazing lands. He also discussed the actions of Edward Snowden, the government intelligence employee who disclosed classified government information to the public. In both instances, Dean Douglas explained that the examples fell short of King’s standard by not satisfying all three requirements. The armed ranchers have not been practicing loving peaceful protests, and Snowden has fled the country and refused to accept the consequences of his actions.

Dr. King’s appeal of the injunction went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was decided against him in a 5-4 decision. Even so, King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and his courageous efforts of civil disobedience ultimately led to victory for many of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement. Dean Douglas’s talk was a compelling tribute to Dr. King and his fight for just laws through peaceful protest.

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PSF’s Halloween Party

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On the night of October 31, the halls of William and Mary Law School were filled with ghosts and goblins celebrating All Hallows Eve at the Public Service Fund (PSF) Halloween Party! The annual event raises money to provide stipends for students who take unpaid summer jobs. Not only did law students get to help a worthy cause, but they had a frightfully good time in the process!

Members of PSF transformed the Law School lobby into an inviting party space that was both elegant and eerie. Costumed volunteers served Halloween-themed, while other volunteers tended to the DJ table and made sure the event was a “Thriller.” Twinkling orange lights and cobwebs were draped along the walls, and skeletons dangled from the chandeliers. Even George Wythe and John Marshall got in the spirit, as the faces of their busts were adorned with festive Halloween masks.

Shrieks of delight echoed through the building as students saw their friends dressed in all fashions of ghastly garb. For instance, the characters of the board game “Clue” attended, but even in a building full of law students, no one could figure out “whodunit.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg made an appearance, wearing her signature gown, bun, and glasses. The Queen of Hearts and Alice and Wonderland were there too, but thankfully, no one lost their head that night. Other attendees included the Avengers, Ghostbusters, Harry Potter, Russel from Up, Dr. Who, and Wonder Woman, among many others. People even showed off their legal humor, with a “Wild Tort” and The Bluebook making appearances as well.

One of the highlights of the night was the “Walk-Off” performed by the group dressed as characters from the movie Zoolander. The two characters strutted their stuff on the dance floor, performing the exact choreography as in the movie, and the audience erupted into uproarious applause. Their moves and costumes earned them the title of “Best Group Costume” in the costume competition. The “Best Individual Costume” award went to the student who dressed as Wolf Law Library’s beloved librarian, Steve. A ghoulishly good time was had by all. It showed that in the end, law school is not all that “scary” after all!

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Public Service Fund: A Fun Way to Get Involved

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Law school can be a stressful time, especially in the first few weeks. You get a lot of information thrown at you, on top of trying to read for classes and get involved. Not everything about it has to be stressful, however. The Public Service Fund (PSF) is a great way to get involved at the law school and have fun at the same time.

PSF is a student-run organization which gives funds to students who are working in public interest and public service internships during the summers. While these internships are all great experiences for students to learn and provide valuable experience in a variety of different subject areas, including state and local governments, and legal services to the underprivileged, which are often unpaid. Students working in these areas are encouraged to apply to PSF for aid in order to help them to participate in their summer programs.

PSF holds events throughout the year to raise money which it then donates at the end of each year to students working in these areas over the summers. These events are a great way to have fun during law school and meet other students, and faculty. Some of the events that PSF holds include: a trivia night, chili cook-off and cornhole tournament, softball tournament, Halloween party, singer/songwriter competition, and auction. The events are run by student (and faculty) volunteers, and span throughout the year.

There are a number of different ways to get involved with PSF, all of which are important. Like every organization, it is run by a board of students; however, the majority of the organization is comprised of general members and volunteers who participate in the panning and running of the events.

To date, the biggest two events have been the trivia night and cornhole tournament, but the biggest event every year is the Auction, which takes place in the spring. Both events were very well attended and everyone at W&M is looking forward to the next events: the softball tournament and the Halloween party.

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Interview with Amy Greer ’89, Public Service Fund Co-Founder

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

Amy is a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Q: What sparked your interest in public service and pro bono work?

A: I have always been outwardly focused.  This may have been more an accident of birth than anything else, as I was an oldest child with responsibilities for my younger siblings, but for whatever reason, my biggest strengths have always been problem solving and personal interaction, which seem to be perfect qualities for this work.  I did not come from a family with lawyers in it, but I wanted to be a lawyer from a very early age, because they had the power to help others.  As far as I was concerned, public service and pro bono work were what lawyers did.

greer1Q: What inspired you to found the Public Service Fund?

A: Like so much of life, it was a happy accident.  Kathy Hessler ’88, a like-minded person, told me that other schools were doing programs like what became our Public Service Fund (PSF).  W&M had nothing available to support public interest work for students.  We identified a need and we filled it.  Together, and with the help of others, we considered what we thought we could accomplish, both in the short term and what PSF could be in the future and, acting with the support of the faculty and the administration, including Professors John Levy, Rob Kaplan, Jayne Barnard and then-Dean Sullivan, we got it off the ground.

Kathy Hessler ’88 and Amy Greer ’89, PSF Co-Founders

Kathy Hessler ’88 and Amy Greer ’89, PSF Co-Founders

Q: How did your time at W&M shape or encourage your commitment to public service?

A: Nothing succeeds like success, I guess.  The fact that PSF was so well received was very energizing for me — and the fact that the work being done was so inspiring to others and so meaningful to those being helped.

Q: What have you found to be the most meaningful way to stay involved in the community as a lawyer?

A: Legal work is very demanding of your time.  I have had periods of very significant community involvement and others when I have been less so, depending on my career demands.  However, I think the key is to commit to issues and organizations that you genuinely care about – that always makes it much easier to make the time.  And, though it may seem counterintuitive, given my last statement, I also try to find other ways to stay involved based solely on time commitment – like quick clinics, with real person-to-person interaction: helpful to clients, meaningful to me, and not a lot of time commitment.

Q: Do you have any advice for current law students or recent graduates who would like to continue to serve others?

A: Just do it.  And don’t feel bad about yourself when your life gets in the way.  Keep trying.

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And They’re Off! (PSF Auction 2015)

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

During the summer of 2014 alone, William & Mary Law School awarded $335,275 to 109 students for public service fellowships. These fellowships allow students to pursue otherwise unpaid summer internships with qualifying nonprofit organizations, legal aid offices, prosecutors, public defenders, government agencies, courts, and judges. While the majority of these fellowships are funded by law school endowments and alumni, the Public Service Fund contributes tens of thousands of dollars every year.

For over 20 years, the Public Service Fund has been devoted to raising money for summer stipends. The organization hosts fundraising events year-round, but it traditionally raises the most money from the PSF Auction held every spring. The best part of Auction—in addition to raising money to support a worthy cause—is the excitement of the event itself. Student and faculty emcees engage the audience in lively bidding wars, anxious bidders stake out at the silent auction to make sure they go home with their chosen package, student bands perform, poor students avoid the bidding entirely and hover by the food tables, and the guests that get all dolled up for the event take advantage of the photo station.

10487233_1597126917188064_2410761709733705492_nWith the Auction’s Kentucky Derby theme this year, big hats, bow ties, and a fast-paced atmosphere predominated. Nine student bands performed, with a lively rendition of “Uptown Funk” rejuvenating the crowd after a long night of bidding, and PSF raised over $20,000 for summer stipends. Donations for this event came not only from local and national businesses, but from alumni, students, and faculty as well. Over 30 faculty members donated Faculty Experiences, which ranged from sport clay shooting with Professors Alces and Stern, to a Middle Eastern dinner with Professors Combs, Kades, and Criddle, to lunch with Dean Douglas. Some of the student offers included sailing lessons, a private aerial tour, a Hogwarts dinner party, and Indian cooking classes.

11001923_1597127723854650_2631926352344414485_n

330 students, faculty, staff, family, and friends attended this year’s auction, but those who were not able to make it are still in luck! Because PSF secured over 270 packages this year, the items that did not sell in the first round will be auctioned off in an online “fire-sale” after Spring Break. If you want to take a look at the items that are still looking for a good home, check out the event website!

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Global Flight Relief Externship

rileyby Abby Riley, Class of 2016

Abby is a 2L from Adams, Tennessee. She went to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she received a B.A. in English and a B.S. in Political Science: International and Comparative Studies. At William & Mary, Abby is a member of the Environmental Law & Policy Review and is secretary of the International Law Society. 

My externship at Global Flight Relief, the non-profit humanitarian arm of a private aviation corporation, was valuable to my legal career in surprising ways. What I expected was a semester during which I would build on the legal skills I had developed during my first year at William & Mary and at my legal internship over the summer. I thought I would hone my skillset in an area that interested me (non-profit work in developing countries). I figured I would learn something about planes. It only took a few hours the first day of work to know that I was going to get much more than I originally anticipated.

An externship allows students the opportunity to work in legal settings for academic credit during the fall or spring semester. For me, this meant that once a week I would lift my nose from my textbooks, trade classroom casual for business casual, and head into the real world instead of Evidence class. The first day this happened, I honestly was a little terrified. Rightfully so, as it turns out – within my first few hours I had a crash course in business associations, non-profit law, and tax law, none of which I had ever taken in school before. People had always told me that law school doesn’t teach you all aspects of the law, but rather how to think like a lawyer. You learn how to analyze and work through problems because you won’t always know the answers right off the bat. It’s almost like getting tossed in a pool, and in sink or swim situations like my first day of work at Global Flight Relief, I was infinitely grateful that my William & Mary professors had prepared me to swim.

Over the next few months, my way of thinking about non-profit organizations entirely changed. I began to understand the extent that the Internal Revenue Code dictates a non-profit organization’s formation and activities. Beyond the fundamentals, I encountered very practical issues that humanitarian actors working in foreign countries face constantly. How does an aviation non-profit carry on its humanitarian missions when there is an outbreak of Ebola? What legal and healthcare structures must it interact with? What laws will affect payment requirements in an airline hangar contract with Tanzania?

The things that surprised me the most, however, were the things I learned about myself (a visit from a delegation from Turkey was a close second). I learned that I absolutely love contract drafting. I learned that I can effectively research business structures, even though I am not at all business-savvy. I also learned what I’m not so great at – I can report well in writing, but verbally summarizing my findings to my supervisor was something that was more difficult for me. Fortunately, I now have a year and a half to improve before I’m tossed into the job market.

In sum, the externship was a great variety of learning experiences. While not all law students choose to extern, I found it to be a formative part of my legal education. I not only learned about the law, but about myself as a future lawyer as well.

And yes, I did learn a little about planes in the process.

Student Legal Services Provides Law Students an Opportunity for Hands-On Experience

keefeby TJ Keefe, Class of 2017

Given the many hours of  independent reading and researching that accompany a 1L experience, I sometimes lose track of how interpersonal the legal profession really is.  Although esoteric legal concepts frequently occupy my thoughts, I try to remember that the practice of law is really the act of solving real-world problems for real-world individuals.  In the spirit of this mindset, I decided to join William & Mary’s Student Legal Services team.

Blow Memorial Hall  (2)Student Legal Services  was established by William & Mary Law students who hoped to use their abilities to serve other members of the College community. The organization is entirely student-run, and relies on over thirty-five volunteers to staff its office on William & Mary’s main campus.  From room 316 in Blow Memorial Hall, Student Legal Service volunteers research whatever legal issues the students and staff of the College bring to the office. Cases involving landlord-tenant disputes or criminal citations are common, but the office has handled a much greater variety of cases in the past.

In order to provide the best assistance possible, the Student Legal Services team has an established system. Members of the campus community are encouraged to set up an appointment in order to discuss their legal questions confidentially. Once  a member of S.L.S.  team has documented the details of an community member’s legal problem on an intake form, volunteers draw on their researching skills to find all applicable laws. As law students who have not yet passed the Virginia Bar, S.L.S. volunteers are forbidden from providing clients with any recommendations beyond the explicit text of the law. Even so, clients often leave with a much clear sense of  what laws will be applied to their specific legal issues.

I would recommend S.L.S. to anyone interested in gaining some hands-on experience with the law. Although law school can be quite academic in nature, William & Mary’s Student Legal Services has definitely provided me with the refreshing opportunity to assist with real-world legal problems.

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Annual Thanksgiving Basket Competition

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On the Thursday before Thanksgiving, first-year law students were able to get a break from their studies and take part in a service project for the community. Each year, the Law School participates in a Thanksgiving food drive, sponsored by the Black Law Students Association, which collects thousands of food items to benefit families in need in the area. Each 1L Legal Practice section collects food items and money to buy food items for donation. But, collecting the items is not where it ends in this food drive. There is a competitive spin. The food items purchased and collected are used to create different displays. They call the displays “baskets”– I am guessing the competition used to be basket but now has grown much bigger. Each section creates their own display to compete with other sections based on three categories: best content, most creative, and judges’ choice.

The night before judging, the Law School lobby was full of first-year law students creating displays for their section. Everyone was having fun with it. Music and laughter filled the lobby. The competition resulted in a variety of different displays. My section initially went in with an idea to make a giant piece of pie. However, once we got to the school, we realized another section was doing the same thing. Within a moments notice, we scratched the idea and came up with a new one. This is what we came up with:

basket

A display of a fireplace in a living room won for judges’ choice; most creative went to a Wizard of Oz Display; and best content went to a courtroom display complete with an image of Dean Douglas in a robe as the judge. The food drive was able to collect 4,114 food items and coupons for 12 turkeys to be donated to help the community for Thanksgiving. While our section did not win (the competition was fierce), helping families in need was a victory all the same.

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PSF’s Halloween Party

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2018

As I’m sure you have been warned, law school can be scary. This is not necessarily for the reasons you think, though! This past Halloween, the Law School transformed into a ghouly, eerie scene. Spider webs consumed tables, statutes transformed into the ghosts of their past, and witches cackled as they greeted innocent party-goers. Over three hundred students donned their finest—or bloodiest, or wittiest, or silliest—costumes for the Public Service Fund’s Annual Halloween Party. If there is anything law students take more seriously than academics, it might be Halloween costumes!

For the price of a ticket, students got to eat, drink, dance, and, most importantly, show off their creativity. The law school was filled with movie stars, cartoon characters, skeletons, farm animals, historical figures, vampires and the like (credit thomas). Students voted for their favorite costume in two categories—individual and group costume—and the winners in each received prizes for their creativity.

Best Group Costume: Seven Deadly Sins

Seven Deadly Sins

Best Individual Costume: Ricky Vaughn

Vaughn2

Vaughn

As with all PSF events, the proceeds from the Halloween Party will be used to support students pursuing unpaid summer internships. Thanks to generous donations from local retailers*, this year’s event raised over $3,400!

*Thank you to the following restaurants and retailers for their generous donations: Dominos, Z Pizza, Harris Teeter, Martin’s, Trader Joe’s, Firehouse, Qdoba, Brickhouse, Emily’s Donuts & Café, Sal’s, Papa Murphy’s.

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Bone Marrow Drive Pie-Eating Contest

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On October 28th, the Law School yet again proved that it could come together for a good cause. The annual Bone Marrow Drive Pie-Eating Contest went into full effect during the lunch hour. The goal of the contest is to raise awareness and funding for bone marrow related illnesses. For this event, students could purchase entry for $5.00. Upon entry into the actual event you are given a piece of pie (I had strawberry!) and a seat to watch an entertaining show. The entertaining show is a pie-eating contest. Who are the contestants? Well none other than our very own students, professors, and faculty! There was a student contestant representing each class year along with the various professors and faculty.

Throughout the week prior to the event students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to donate money toward the cause of bone marrow related illnesses. For every two dollars a person donated they could bring a contestant’s time for pie eating up or down 5 seconds. The idea was to try and bring up the time for a person you wanted to win or bring down the time for a contestant you wanted to lose. The rules for the contest were simple. Whoever ate the most pie in their allotted time, without using their hands, won! It ended up being quite entertaining to watch as the professors’ and students’ faces became covered in the pie of their choice.

In the end, the 3L student won the contest overall. He was also the student who planned the entire event! Professor Griffin won the faculty portion of the contest, maintaining his dynasty as the reigning champion of the faculty pie-eating contest (bringing his trophy from last year to the competition with him). Here you see professor Griffin after finding out he had won:

griffin 1

Professor Griffin did not just win a trophy, however. He was also given the opportunity to pie all the students in the face with whip cream pies. Here you can see Professor Griffin pushing a pie into the face of the 1L contestant (who ironically received a trophy for eating the least amount of pie):

griffin 2

The whole event was great. It was a great way to take a break from studying, eat some delicious pie, as well as raise awareness and funding for bone marrow related illnesses. The entire event raised $2,565!! It was definitely a success and I can see why they do it every year!

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PSF Singer-Songwriter

wentworthby Christie Wentworth, Class of 2017

For most people, November is just another month. Maybe it’s the time to start Christmas shopping, the time to dig out the snow shovel (at least if you live in New York, where I’m from!), or the time to plan your Black Friday schedule.

For law students, however, November is more than “just another month”: it’s the month before finals. For us, it’s the time to start (or finish) applying to jobs, the time to submit a note for journal, or the time to start outlining, all while balancing extracurriculars, externships, and, hopefully, a little fun.

Everyone handles these pressures differently, but for many people playing or listening to music can be a great way to relieve stress. Thankfully, the Public Service Fund hosts a timely event that gives students an opportunity to do just that. On November 14, over sixty-five students attended “Singer Songwriter”, an event where thirteen groups and solo artists performed original music as well as cover songs. For some law students, this was their first chance to perform in public. For others, playing at local venues is nothing new!

Ray Bilter Bagpipes2L Chris Generous started off with the only nonmusical act of the night—an impressive and energetic breakdance performance that left us all thinking about how we should really get in shape. 1L Ray Bilter followed with a few tunes on the bagpipes, bringing in both traditional Scottish sounds as well as some Irish jigs. Other highlights of the night included The Right to Bare Arms’ rendition of “Wagon Wheel”, Christmas music on the fife, an oboe and French horn duet, Cameron Boster playing original music on the guitar, a creative rendition of “Cups”, The Learned Hand Bluegrass Band’s “House of the Rising Sun”, Treedust’s “The Mother We Share”, Law Cappella’s “Say Something”, Dan Ginnetty’s “Tiny Dancer”, Miram Strauss performing “Hallelujah”, and a grand finale by Sean Bevil with “Walking in Memphis”.

The Learned Hand Blugrass Band

Even audience members such as myself who could not quite rise to the talent of the performing artists were invited—and encouraged—to sing-along. I will most certainly be attending the event next year and look forward to seeing some members of the new 1L class perform!

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