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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Lunch Options

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

Let’s talk about something extremely important: lunch at the Law School’s café. The café is called Zime (I don’t know the story behind the name), and they serve breakfast, lunch, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Originally, I came into law school thinking that I was simply going to bring lunch everyday and eat while I studied, but after I discovered the BBQ chicken salad at Zime, I changed my mind! I now buy lunch virtually everyday. While many students do bring their lunch, the café’s food is great and relatively inexpensive. For lunch, the café also serves custom sandwiches, sushi, and other types of salads. Additionally, they have pastries and deserts available all day.

While I am a loyal lunch customer, their breakfast is even better. They have various breakfast sandwiches including my favorite: an egg white bagel with cheese and sausage.

zimeIn addition to the food menu, the café also serves various drinks including hot coffee, iced coffee, and tea. For the coffee, they have a wide variety of flavors and never run out. Although many people buy cups at the school, I bring my own coffee cup and refill it for a little more than a dollar. For refills, it is the same price regardless of the mug’s size. Also, ask for a punch card at the cash register, and with every 10 coffees you purchase, you get one free.

Although the food at the café is great, if you prefer to bring your own meals into schools, that’s perfectly fine too. Adjacent to the café is a room with two giant refrigerators and five microwaves. Before I started buying my lunch, I would leave my meals in the refrigerator all day, in an unlabeled container, and nobody would touch it. This just shows that if you do want to bring your own food, you don’t have to worry about another student possibly snatching your lunch.

Additionally, for those who stay late at night and still need caffeine, the Law School has vending machines near the refrigerators that offer Starbucks iced coffee, Gatorade, and other energy drinks. All of these options cost around one dollar, and if you don’t have money in your wallet, you can use your Dining Dollars of the Law School’s ATM located within the café.

While I understand that this post seems a little silly, in reality, the café is a major part of my day. Having a convenient place where I can buy food and drinks without leaving the building allows me to be more efficient as a law student. Although I hope everyone does choose to attend William & Mary, no matter what law school you attend, please ask current students about their dining options within the law building. I promise that it will make a difference in daily law experience.

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The Student Division of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law

by Kate Lennon, Class of 2017lennon

The Student Division of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law, or IBRL:SD as it is commonly referred by students and faculty, serves as a chance for students to get involved in topics surrounding the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We host a number of social and academic programs throughout the year that allow for learning and conversation on a variety of Con Law issues. Some of the programs hosted by IBRL:SD include Constitutional Conversations, the Scholarly Lunch Series, and the annual Edmund Randolph Award for Excellence in Oral Advocacy, otherwise referred to as “the Silver Tongue Award.”

Constitutional Conversations is community-based education project that facilitates law students going into the community to educate citizens about their civic rights and duties in hopes of inspiring them to be active participants in the democratic process. Constitutional Conversations includes different sessions for students and adults, both of which are taught by law students. The best part about Constitutional Conversations is that you can play a key role as a first-year law student without too much time commitment!

The Scholarly Lunch Series is also another way for a first-year student to get involved. Throughout the semester, IBRL:SD brings in speakers who are involved in Constitutional Law issues. In the 2014-15 academic year, we had various speakers including: Attorney General Mark Herring, Tim Bostic and Tony London (the Plaintiffs in Bostic v. Shaefer, the case that legalized same-sex marriage in Virginia), and Former Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell. Throughout the year, law students, and sometimes the public, are able to attend these events, which most times include free food (alway a bonus for the busy law student). For these events, we look to our members, especially first-year students, to help set-up and make the events run smoothly!

As part of the Bushrod T. Washington Moot Court Tournament, held for law students to compete for membership on William & Mary’s Moot Court Team, IBRL:SD gives out the Silver Tongue Advocacy Award. The 2015 Silver Tongue Award Recipient was Tom Goldstein, noted appellate advocate and co-founder of SCOTUSblog. It was a real treat to have him come to our law school to speak. Keep an eye out for the naming of next year’s recipient!

This is just a summary of some of the programs IBRL:SD is involved with. Overall, IBRL:SD is a great organization because it allows students to get involved, and to see and hear about the topics they are interested in. Whether it is a long debated issue or a new legal dilemma, our organization encourages students to learn, get involved, and enjoy their passion for Constitutional Law. If you are interested in Con Law issues — even if just for your personal interest rather than your career choice — I encourage you to attend a few of our events!

This post is a part of a series featuring William & Mary Law School’s student organizations. All post are written by student leaders. To read more student organization blog posts, click here

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My Life as a 2L

Student blogger and 3L student, Abby Snider, put together a video that reflected on her second year at William & Mary Law School.

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Wolf Law Library

kingby Garrett King, Class of 2018

If you can imagine this, I spend most of my time in the library. The building was renovated a few years ago, so even though William & Mary may be the oldest law school in the country, the library is very modern. The library consists of 3 main sections: (1) the hang out/leisure area, (2) the study tables, and (3) the study carrels.

The hand out/leisure area consists main of chairs and small tables to eat food or drink coffee. Many people come here simply to read emails or relax when they have free time, but not enough to start studying. The library also provides newspapers and magazines for those who simply want to get away from a computer screen.

4619414744_4a972dc265_mAdditionally, the library has a separate section with several long tables that are used for studying. These tables, like in other libraries, are in an open room with outlets and lamps throughout the table. For those who like studying with people, this is your place. This section of the library is in a room with panoramic windows that allow you to look outside at the scenery. Plus, these rooms have a ton of natural light, which is always preferable when studying.

Finally, the library also offers dozens of library carrels. While you might think that carrels are standard to all libraries, trust me these are not. Each carrel is big enough to hold two people, and their stuff. Plus they have two outlets and an upper portion to store books or school materials. I spend a majority of my time in this section because I like the “closed feeling” that a carrel provides, as opposed to the open concept at the study tables.

4619413954_00becf28ed_mWhile these are the three main sections of the library, there are also additional features worth highlighting. At night, I really like using a white board to memorize material/simply write it down to understand it. So I usually reserve a group study room. Each student has access to a website that allows you to reserve a separate group study room in increments of four hours per day. These rooms hold anywhere from 6-10 people, and are typically used by TAs during office hours. Although the rooms are technically for group studying, many individuals, including myself, reserve them just for solo studying. These rooms give me a change of scenery after spending all day sitting at a carrel.

In addition to these academically related features, the library also has a student lounge with a ping-pong table and pool table available 24/7. Although many people think that law school academics are competitive, they haven’t played ping-pong with a group of law students. My friends get really competitive with playing, but ultimately, the games are all in good fun because they give us a chance to relax and take a break from school. With finals upon us, this room not only helps us unwind, but also allows us to be more efficient studiers by allowing us to recharge ourselves during the final leg of this law school grind.

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The De-Stress Funfest

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

While the month of December normally brings about holiday cheer, we here at William & Mary Law School have to get though our finals before we can truly be joyful. Finals are a necessary part of law school education, and while they are important, it can be tough to manage the stress that comes along with them. Finals can be especially stressful in law school, and that is because in many classes the entire grade is based off of the final exam. As a second-year student, I’ve survived finals twice before, but it can still feel overwhelming sometimes.

1As I was preparing for finals, I was very happy to learn about the “De-Stress Funfest” that took place at the law school the week before finals on December 2nd. The event was sponsored by two student organizations: Lawyers Helping Lawyers and the Women’s Law Society. Both organizations and their student volunteers stocked the law school lobby with a variety of food, items, and activities meant to lighten the mood at the law school. Students could be seen chilling out with some coloring books, grabbing some free food and coffee, and even just lightening the mood by trying on some funny headwear that was 3available. Personally, I grabbed some food and spent some time doing a quick coloring page in between classes.

Lawyers Helping Lawyers did a great job establishing this event last semester, and I was happy to participate again this semester. The group is at work throughout the semester, though. Lawyers Helping Lawyers does much more than just help coordinate the De-Stress Funfest before finals. 2The group runs a variety of other events to help law students manage law school, including having a game night and meditation events. In a major event to promote wellness for attorneys, Lawyers Helping Lawyers even had a federal District Judge come in and speak about his battles with alcoholism. In fact, volunteers for the student organization offer their time to talk with any students that are feeling overwhelmed.

I absolutely cannot wait to wrap up my finals. But it has been great to know that the student community here is able to help me put this stressful time in perspective and even be able to enjoy the week.

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pembertonby Shevarma Pemberton, Class of 2018

Finals are over- yay! So let’s reflect on one of my favorite events of the year, Firmsgiving. Given the mounting stress level at that point in the semester due the anticipation of looming finals, Firmsgiving could not have come at a better time, courtesy of my fellow Section-mates.

food3In the spirit of the season, we decided to get together and break bread over our very own Thanksgiving meal. It was a great opportunity to take a step back, gain perspective, and enjoy each other before everyone went their separate ways for the break.  We set the date, selected our respective contributions to the festivities, and showed up for the lovely event. I elected to prepare the stuffing for the occasion, something that might not have been that well thought out. There is a lot of pressure surrounding the stuffing in a Thanksgiving meal, and there I was, attempting to make the dish for the first time. It felt like my law school experience—I stepped outside my comfort zone to do something I had not done before. And I have to say, like with all things I put my mind to, the stuffing turned out just fine. Interestingly enough, I found inspiration in that small victory.

The event was well attended and included all the members of my Section, as well as eager alums of the class. The menu included sweet corn pie, turkey, salad, home-made rolls, chips and dip, mashed potatoes, and the most delectable desserts imaginable (I was very disappointed that I was not able to immortalize the desserts in a picture). We all broke bread, relaxed, laughed, talked, and found a respite from the law school stresses. The alums were all too happy to give advice and provide incites that we are probably not too receptive to at this point, but I am sure in hindsight that it will be very clear—we are all going to be just fine.


I had a great time—we all did. And although this is not something we have expressly agreed to as yet, this could be the start of a Section tradition. That is definitely the position that I am advocating for.

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Taking the MPRE

sniderby Abby Snider, Class of 2016

One of the requirements for any state’s Bar Exam is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam – more commonly known as the MPRE. The MPRE is an exam based on the Rules of Professional Conduct. It basically covers different ethical situations lawyers are faced with, like the rules of conflicts, the rules of confidentiality, and how to handle client’s funds.

The MPRE is a two-hour long exam that you can take throughout the year. It is 60 multiple choice questions, easy peasy after the LSAT and law school exams. Many students take the MPRE during their second year since some states require law students to get a special practice certificate to appear in court during their externships or summer internships. This requires that students pass the MPRE and take Evidence (in California, where I’m planning on taking the Bar, you only need to take Evidence). To graduate from William & Mary, you have to take the corresponding course, Professional Responsibility, which teaches the Rules and provides colorful examples of different ethical situations. I am in Professional Responsibility now, so I doubled up studying for the MPRE with finals studying!

The test ensures that lawyers uphold the moral responsibility of being a lawyer. Lawyers are tasked with representing incredibly important things in clients’ lives, from financial interests, to ensuring they get custody of their children, to keeping them out of jail. The things you learn in Professional Responsibility, and while studying for the MPRE, ensure that you don’t take advantage of clients because of the important and trusting position lawyers are placed in. The class has really helped me think about the boundaries of what my relationship with clients will be, how to manage my clients and my time, and most importantly helped me learn the scope of my responsibilities to clients and the courts.

So, early in November, I drove down to a nearby university and took the MPRE with a couple of my friends. Hopefully I passed!

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The Inevitability of Exams

newtonby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018

Thanksgiving is over, and finals, once so comfortably distant, are now just a week away. Hopefully, you put the time over the break to good use and have returned to W&M both mentally rested and feeling ready for finals.

Just before the break, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society hosted an exam-prep boot camp for 1L students. 2L and 3L students shared their tips and tricks for outlining and studying for exams. I would like to pass on two of the tips for what to do once your outline is complete.

First, look at your outline and pull out the big ideas. Identify the handful of key legal concepts that have continued to pop up over and over again throughout the semester. Write them down in bullet-point form on note cards. Then find a willing listener with no legal experience.* Teach them the key concept using simple language and as few words as possible. This will help you to understand the essence of the concept by forcing you to rephrase it into normal English. You will also save time during the exam because you will already know what you want to say.

Second, think long and hard about what judges your professors are really fond of. Every professor has one or two judges whose opinions they consider the gold standard of legal analysis. Once you have identified the judges, re-read the cases that they wrote the opinion for and break down their method of analysis. File these methods away in your legal toolbox for reference when you feel like there is something you might not quite be getting during the exam.

Hopefully these tips will be of some use as you prepare for exams over the next two weeks. Good luck!

*Parents are good options. They appreciate time on the phone with you, and you get to study. It’s a win-win situation.

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BLSA’s Food Drive Extrava –CAN—za!

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

On the night of Wednesday, November 18th, 1L students stayed late after class to get work done. Now, this is nothing new; but unlike most nights, the students weren’t working in the library. Instead, they congregated in the Law School lobby to construct their canned food masterpieces for the Black Law Students Association’s Annual Thanksgiving Baskets Food Drive. Every year, sections of first-year students compete against other sections to collect canned goods and fashion them into the most creative, original, and impressive structures they can.

thanksgivingbasket4This year, the 1L class came out in full force to make sculptures that would blow the judges away. Teams drew inspiration from around the world, with one recreating the Berlin Wall, and another constructing the Eiffel Tower in a beautiful tribute to Paris. Others represented holidays: one team made a turkey of color-coordinating cans and another crafted a large cornucopia to celebrate Thanksgiving. Another team created a Christmas display, complete with Christmas lights, a tree, and a festive fireplace. Another team created nearly life-sized replicas of Darth Vader, Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda in a Star Wars-themed exhibit titled “May the Torts be Wythe You.” Students and professors alike were amused by the way this section incorporated their professors as all of the different characters.

During the lunch hour on Thursday, judges walked around and looked over all of the structures, judging based on content (variety of foods, size and volume of the items, etc.) and creativity. They had three awards to bestow, with the grand prize winners receiving a pizza party and the ever-important bragging rights.

The “Most Creative” award went to “Can-dy Land,” a beautifully crafted recreation of the beloved childhood board game. Featuring whimsical locales such as the Chocolate Swamp, Ice Cream Sea, Sundae Summit and CAN-berry Castle, the bright colors and striking design made the display a sweet treat to behold. Not to mention the fact that the team brought in a cotton candy machine to serve cotton candy and create a fully immersive experience.


The grand prize winner, winning awards for both “Best Content” and “Judge’s Choice” was “We Americ-CAN End Hunger.” The impressive sculpture featured a map of the United States constructed of cans and food boxes, complete with a Mississippi River made from the blue tops of mayonnaise jars. On the left of the map stood a five-foot tall replica of the Golden Gate Bridge made of color-coordinating cereal boxes. On the right side was a creative rendition of the Capitol Building. Up against the wall was an American flag made from pasta boxes and red and white soup cans. Boxes of macaroni and cheese spelled out USA as the final touch to give this amazing creation its winning look.


Not only was the competition fun for all involved, but BLSA ultimately collected over 4,600 canned and boxed foods for those in need in the Williamsburg area. In this season of Thanksgiving, it is events like these that make students especially thankful to be a part of the William and Mary Law School family.

My section- "May the Torts be Wythe You"

My section- “May the Torts be Wythe You”

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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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