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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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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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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Looking Back on the First Semester’s Finals

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

Wow, just like that December, and finals are already here and flying by. Its crazy to think that only a few short months ago, I was sitting in my first law school class, not totally sure of what I had gotten myself into, and now finals are done, and its certainly true what they say… Law school will change you.

Even within the first few months of being in law school, its clear that most students undergo a change. The environment that law school places students into provides a new lens to view the world through, and new tools to understand what they are looking at. The way you think has changed, the way you speak, read, argue and analyze have all changed and will continue to do so over the rest of your time in law school and afterwards (or so they say).

While its true that law school comes with a lot of stress, and even more work, its also true that it comes with a lot of fun as well. Being at a school like William & Mary offers a unique opportunity to really experience a lot. Its unique location offers easy access to a number of cities, such as Richmond and Washington, DC; its alumni network is second to none with alumni coming back what seems like every week to speak at an event, help with job searching, or teach a class; and its student community is a close-nit group, with a diverse background – every day, you will be challenged by them – and ultimately you will benefit from it, especially come finals time.

statuesBefore coming to law school, and before actually taking a law school final, I (like most, I think) had heard the horror stories of what they were like – long hypotheticals that don’t seem to have any sort of definite answer and writing until the very last second. While this is true in part, finals are not as bad as the stories make them seem. While they are certainly long, and can put your brain through a mental gauntlet, they are no more than what you have been prepared for all semester. The truth of the matter, at least at William & Mary, is that your professors WANT you to do well. They want to challenge you, but they also want to see you succeed.

Yes, law school exams are stressful, you will inevitably spend hours creating an outline, reviewing it, and using it to take old practice exams, preparing. But don’t stress too much—its important to remember that over stressing and over studying for a final are not good ways to prepare. Having some faith in your abilities as a student, and in the preparation that you have received throughout the semester will go a long way in helping to keep you sane, and in helping you to prepare effectively. Ultimately, every student had their own way of preparing for finals, and you will have to find out what works best for you; but no matter what that is – remember (like the rest of the semester) its important to keep some balance – take time for your self and relax. By the end of your first semester, you’ll see how much you’ve already accomplished.

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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 Most Wonderful Time of the Year in Williamsburg

newtonzimmermanby Dakota Newton, Class of 2018, and Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

For most of the year, Williamsburg, VA is just a nice place to live. During the holidays, it is magical! Though finals inevitably keep students busy for most of the month of December, Williamsburg sure knows how to make our spirits merry and bright! It’s a balmy 65 degrees, yet the entirety of Colonial Williamsburg is trimmed with evergreen garland and old-fashioned fruit wreaths, and at night every window glows with candlelight. Colonial residents eagerly welcome visitors and share their holiday customs, creating an appreciation for new and old traditions.

christmas carolThe shops and restaurants on Duke of Gloucester Street and Merchant’s Square are filled with the endless bustle of cheerful Christmas shoppers. There are caroling groups and live music provided by the undergraduate W&M music students. A local theatre group has a clever stage-in-a-trailer from which they perform a two-person show of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” throughout December.

New this year is “Liberty’s Ice Pavillion,” located near the William and Mary Bookstore. You can rent a pair of skates and glide around the ice rink, and just after dark you can enjoy the strings of  shining lights overhead as you skate. Best of all, all of these attractions are within walking distance from the Law School, so students can take much-needed study breaks.

The shops at Merchant’s Square stay open late, so you can sneak into Wythe’s Candy Shop and grab a well-deserved treat. Or you can just stroll through the old colonial settlement and enjoy the lights with friends. On Saturdays, there is a wonderful farmer’s market in the morning with vendors from all over the Hampton Roads area.

grand illuminationThe holiday season kicks off with the Williamsburg Christmas Parade and the amazing fireworks display of the Grand Illumination, Hundreds gather in Colonial Williamsburg to see the Governor’s Palace light up in the legendary pyrotechnic show.

At any time of year, visitors to the Yankee Candle Flagship Store can enjoy the Yankee Holiday Park, where it snows every four minutes! People can browse through the selection of hundreds of ornaments and decorations while a night sky twinkles above them. In the middle of the room a bridge crosses over an iced-over pond, and lighted Christmas trees surround the landscape, making it the perfect location for a Christmas card photo!

Just a short drive from campus is Busch Gardens, which transforms into Christmas Town each December. Carolers sing for guests and fill the air with Christmas cheer. Dozens and dozens of Christmas trees shine brilliantly in the night, creating a true winter wonderland as visitors get to go from ride to ride. Patrons can even visit the North Pole and see Jolly Old Saint Nick himself. It’s a wonderful opportunity for law students to get out of the library and experience a bit of Christmas magic.

Though Williamsburg has indescribable charm year-round, there is just something about the holidays here that truly makes it the most wonderful time of the year!

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1L Semester Reflection

borkby Emily Bork, Class of 2018

My bags are packed, plane tickets printed, and in a few short hours I’ll be home for the holidays after having survived my first semester of law school! It’s hard to believe that the semester has already come to an end, and as I sit here writing this blog I can’t help but think about how far my fellow 1Ls and I have come in the past five months.

I will never forget my first few days here during our orientation week back in August before classes started. I was a ball of nerves and anxious about anything and everything. I questioned how, and if, things would ever come together by the end of the semester. I was convinced that I would never be able to brief a case or grasp the class material. But, as I talked with my section-mates, I realized that we all had the same fears. It was so comforting to know that I was not alone as my fellow 1Ls gave me hope that we would get through this new, exciting transition together. The people I met during orientation soon became my closest friends here as we have spent countless hours laughing, venting, studying, and learning together.

Perhaps one of my biggest challenges I’ve faced this semester has been learning to accept what my mom calls as being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I would get so frustrated with myself when I couldn’t understand the class material or nail down a key issue, but I’ve slowly come to realize that part of the law school learning process is to be okay with the grey zones, and embrace the confusion for what it is without getting too hung up on all of the intricate nuisances. Our professors always tell us that the beauty of the law is that there are so few clear-cut, easy answers. Our job as lawyers will be to work within the uncertainty and make the most compelling arguments for our clients. After I came to understand that the law is not as formulaic as perhaps I would like it to be, I began to be more forgiving with myself for not always having a solid answer to every question.

This semester has also taught me to embrace the daily victories that come our way. My dad always tells me that the semester is a marathon, not a sprint, and the little positive affirmations I give myself have served as goal-markers along with way. Small things like answering the professor’s questions correctly during a cold-call or getting positive feedback from professors and friends gave me the confidence and energy to keep moving forward. After five months of studying, outlining, and lastly prepping for finals, I can now proudly say that my fellows 1Ls and I have finally crossed the finish line of our marathon! We have leaned on, supported, motivated, and encouraged each other, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing W&M community of which I am honored to be a part of.

This semester has certainly come with its fair share of challenges, successes, highs, and lows but I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I’m excited to see where next semester takes us and look forward to returning for the round two of my 1L year in a few short weeks!

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Visit by FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

On Thursday, November 5, the Election Law Society sponsored an event in which Commissioner Ann Ravel, the chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), speak over the lunch hour. While a free lunch is always a draw to go to an event, the fact that the current chair of a major federal agency was speaking at the school made the event too good to pass up. I have always had an interest in election law and administrative law, and I am also interested in developing a career in the Washington, D.C. area, so I was eager to hear Commissioner Ravel’s perspective on election law and the FEC.

Before joining the FEC, Commissioner Ravel served on California’s version of the FEC—the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Commissioner Ravel shared with us a few stories from her time on the FPPC, including an instance that involved a strange group from Arizona donated money to support a California proposition, and the difficult process and legal battle that resulted in just trying to audit what turned out to be a “shell” of a political action committee. I thought it was very interesting to see how major money influences politics on a state-level, even though it seems nationally spent election money gets the most attention. After some time on California’s FPPC, Commissioner Ravel was nominated by President Obama to serve on the FEC and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

Ann Ravel

Ann Ravel

Discussing federal campaign finance, Commissioner Ravel described many of the problems with not requiring disclosure of campaign contributions in the United States. Commissioner Ravel spoke about how she feels that citizens should be as informed as possible when making decisions in a democracy, and the lack of disclosure requirements in some situations gives rise to “dark money” that hinders the ability of citizens to be fully informed. I will be honest—I do not feel well-versed enough in campaign finance and election law to describe the intricate processes of campaign finance completely, but I do generally agree with Commissioner Ravel that disclosure of campaign contributions should be a cornerstone of democratic elections. While Commissioner Ravel spoke about the realistic roadblocks in getting meaningful reform through the FEC (including an unfavorable Supreme Court decision in Citizen United), her articulate and honest statements about the challenges facing the FEC and campaign finance in generally make me think that the FEC is in good hands.

Commissioner Ravel also spoke about some of the new and upcoming changes to the FEC. In particular, the FEC is aiming to improve its online systems and make federal election campaign contributions more readily available to those interested in such information. While the website is currently in a beta form right now, Commissioner Ravel seemed especially excited about what the new website would be able to provide. Feel free to check it out here! I used the beta site to look up information on home district’s congressman, and I was surprised to see how many contributions came from different states other than my home state of Pennsylvania.

Overall, I had a great time listening to Commissioner Ravel speak. I owe the Election Law Society a big thank you for sponsoring the event, and I owe an even bigger thank to Commissioner Ravel for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us.

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Geoff Shepard and the Watergate Scandal

willisby Blake Willis, Class of 2018

By attending William & Mary Law School, you will immediately gain access to events with some incredible people. Earlier this month, the school played host to a D.C. lawyer with a new perspective on a very historic issue. The Watergate scandal was one of the biggest political scandals in the history of the United States. Just about everyone has heard of it, but few people in this generation truly know what happened. Geoff Shepard, a Nixon cabinet member came to William & Mary Law School on November 2nd to talk about his experiences in the Nixon presidency, and the politicization of the Watergate scandal – offering a side of the story rarely discussed.


Geoff Shepard

Shepard started his career in the Nixon White House as a White House Fellow working in the Treasury Department; he then moved into the Domestic Council working on developing policies for domestic issues. During the Watergate scandal, Shepard served as principle deputy to J. Fred Buzhardt, the lead defense counsel for the Watergate scandal. In this capacity, Shepard was able to directly examine the evidence and explore the inner workings of the entire scandal, first hand.
Since leaving Washington in 1975, he has worked as a lawyer and executive in the insurance industry and continuing to research the political workings of the Watergate scandal. He recently published his second book, The Real Watergate Scandal, which talks about the behind the scenes workings of the justice department, judges of the D.C. courts, and prosecuting lawyers during the trials and investigations. Shepard claims that new evidence from the records of several of the prosecuting attorneys contains information about illegal meetings conducted by the prosecution and judges which were conducted in secret, and served as a way to de-centralize political power in the Nixon administration.

Shepard came to the Law School for an event hosted by the Federalist Society and discussed the findings of his research and his efforts to bring this new information to light, including the publishing of his recent book. He asserts that Nixon should have his name cleared and puts forward evidence to back up his claim. He also discussed the legal implications of what allowing such an allegedly corrupt criminal investigation means for the U.S. justice system then and today.
Regardless of whether or not you buy into Shepard’s arguments, the fact remains the same, the Nixon Watergate Scandal is still a hot topic and can serve to teach us as citizen lawyers a thing or two about how justice and politics in the U.S. may really be working.


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