Law Faculty Convene in the Nation’s Capital to explore and strengthen the ‘Pillars of Democracy’
By Janessa Sambola-Harris
More than 2,400 law school faculty, deans, professional staff, and exhibitors gathered in Washington, D.C., January 2-5 at the 2020 AALS Annual Meeting.
The theme of the meeting was “Pillars of Democracy: Law, Representation, and Knowledge”, selected by 2019 AALS President Vicki C. Jackson, Thurgood Marshall Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. Over four days, the meeting included moderated panels, interactive discussions, and networking events where attendees gathered to discuss pressing legal issues and emerging perspectives on the law and legal education.
Moderated by Professor Jackson, the Opening Plenary Session on Friday, January 3 covered the role of universities and law schools in constitutional democracies. The panel discussion featured Ronald J. Daniels (President, Johns Hopkins University), Risa L. Goluboff (Dean, University of Virginia Law), Larry D. Kramer (President, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), and Vincent D. Rougeau (Dean, Boston College Law).
Daniels noted that since America’s founding, academics and universities have played a unique role in elevating the democratic experiment. “The university as it has developed in this country over the past two centuries enriches and is enriched by democracy,” he said. “[I]t has at its best stood in support of this project, responding to the exigencies of the world with vigor and vision. Now is the time when [universities] ought to lean into its capacities to strengthen liberal democracy and not resile from them.”
The Annual Meeting also had a number of notable speakers and presenters, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who joined Professor Jackson in conversation on Saturday evening before a packed ballroom. During the conversation, Justice Ginsburg discussed the limited opportunities she had as a woman graduating from law school in 1959. Relaying a conversation she once had with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, she said that in a world with no discrimination, they both would likely be retired partners at large law firms “but since that wasn’t open to us, we ended up being on the United States Supreme Court,” which garnered laughs and cheers from the audience.
On her groundbreaking work as a law professor establishing nondiscrimination policies within AALS, Justice Ginsburg detailed the numerous projects the committee, now the Section on Women in Legal Education took on. Among those accomplishments, the committee worked to ensure that every legal course included women’s issues within the curriculum, rather than isolating them into their own academic area.
The third Presidential Program, “Representation, Voting, and Sustainable Constitutional Democracy” was moderated by Thomas Ginsburg (University of Chicago Law) and included Guy-Uriel Charles (Duke Law), Pamela S. Karlan (Stanford Law), Michael T. Morley (Florida State University Law), and Kim Lane Scheppele (Princeton University). The panel explored the factors that could undermine our democracy including voter suppression, gerrymandering and changes in how Congress operates.
The meeting also serves as an opportunity to honor outstanding law faculty in support of legal education.
The third annual Section of the Year award was presented to the Section on Environmental Law and the Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. The annual award honors excellence in member support and other section activities that promote AALS core values.
The AALS Scholarly Papers Competition winners were recognized at the AALS House of Representatives meeting on Saturday. Meghan M. Boone (University of Alabama Law) won for her paper “Reproductive Due Process” and Jonathan S. Gould (UC Berkeley Law) for his paper “Law Within Congress.”
More than 20 awards from AALS sections were presented throughout the program at meal events and section programming including:
- The Section on Women in Legal Education’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Robin West (Georgetown Law).
- The Section on Minority Groups‘ Clyde Ferguson Award was presented to Jerry Kang (UCLA Law) and the Derrick A. Bell Jr. Award was presented to Jennifer Lee (Temple Law).
Law faculty attended several different types of programming including:
- The AALS Symposium on 21st Century policing.
- Arc of Career programs such as “So You Want to Publish a Book” and “Becoming an Associate Dean.”
- Hot Topic programs addressing pressing issues in law and legal education including gerrymandering, impeachment, scholarship rankings, and addressing the financial challenges of law students.
- A roundtable discussion “How Does a Law School Successfully Recruit and Retain a Diverse Faculty?” from the AALS Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Minority Law Teachers and Students.
- Authors meet reader sessions including:
- “Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia” by Meera E. Deo (Thomas Jefferson Law)
- “Constitutional Amendments: Making, Breaking and Changing Constitutions” by Richard Albert ( University of Texas Law), and
- “Law and Macroeconomics: Legal Responses to Recessions” by Yair Listokin (Yale Law).
Programs from the association’s 104 sections made up most of the conference schedule, including sessions on civil rights, criminal justice, free speech, health care, immigration, leadership, legal technology, voting, and the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment.
The AALS House of Representatives met on Saturday, January 4, where Darby Dickerson, Dean and Professor of Law at UIC John Marshall Law School, delivered her inaugural address and took over as 2020 AALS President at the end of the meeting. She has selected “The Power of Words” as the theme for her presidential year and for the 2021 AALS Annual Meeting.
“We can use our words to create change,” Dean Dickerson said during her address. “We can use our scholarship to inspire policymakers and others who hold power to enact changes that will create a more just and equitable society. We can write … to help citizens understand the value of a civic education and the rule of law.”
The Meeting of AALS House of Representatives also included the following activities:
- Vicki Jackson thanked colleagues for support during her tenure as AALS President and presided over the meeting, welcoming Dean Darby Dickerson as the 2020 AALS President.
- The Order of The Coif Book Award winner, Richard Rothstein, was recognized for his book, “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.”
- Vincent D. Rougeau (Boston College Law School) began his term as President-Elect.
- Deans Austen L. Parrish (University of Indiana Maurer Law) and Melanie D. Wilson (University of Tennessee Law) started their three-year terms as members of the AALS Executive Committee.
- Deans Erwin Chemerinsky (UC Berkeley Law), Camille A. Nelson (American University Washington College of Law), and Wendy Perdue (University of Richmond Law) completed their three-year tenure as members of the Executive Committee.
Several other groups met alongside or during the AALS Annual Meeting, including:
- The Section on Institutional Advancement held its annual two-day meeting. This year’s session included a series of panels on crisis communications, doing big things with a small staff, and strategizing how to use digital media in promotion and fundraising.
- The Workshop for Pretenured Law School Teachers of Color provided guidance, networking, and support through panels on teaching, scholarship and paths to tenure and promotion.
- The Deans Forum, a one-day event designed for law school deans to convene and network with their peers began with an interview with John Sexton, President Emeritus and former law school dean at New York University by Garry W. Jenkins, Dean of University of Minnesota Law.
The Annual Meeting also provided many opportunities for attendees to network. The Exhibit Hall was open each day of the meeting where attendees connected with vendors and publishers. Eighteen AALS Sections held breakfast or lunch events supporting and recognizing their members. In addition, several law school and related organization receptions and events were held outside regular programming.
Planning is already in progress for the 2021 AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California.
Thank you to all AALS sections, chairs, panel moderators and speakers, and planning committees for your contributions to the planning, programming, and support of a very successful Annual Meeting.
Program Committee for the 2020 Annual Meeting
Robert B. Ahdieh, Texas A&M University School of Law
Kathleen Boozang, Seton Hall University School of Law
Lisa M. Fairfax, The George Washington University Law School
James E. Pfander, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
Christopher J. Walker, The Ohio State University University Moritz College of Law
Committee on Arc of Career Programs
Kay Kindred, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law
Brad Smith, Capital University Law School
Kristi Bowman, Michigan State University College of Law
S. David Mitchell, University of Missouri School of Law
Heather Elliott, University of Alabama School of Law
Jason Palmer, Stetson University College of Law
2020 Deans Forum Program
Daniel M. Filler, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
Risa L. Goluboff, University of Virginia School of Law
Danielle Holley-Walker, Howard University School of Law
Garry W. Jenkins, University of Minnesota Law School
Jennifer J. Johnson, Lewis & Clark Law School
Committee to Review Scholarly Papers for the 2020 Annual Meeting
Eric C. Chaffee, University of Toledo College of Law
Solangel Maldonado, Seton Hall University School of Law
Eloise Pasachoff, Georgetown University Law Center
David A. Skeel, Jr., University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
Kendall Thomas, Columbia Law School
Amanda L. Tyler, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
2020 Workshop for Pretenured Law School Teachers of Color
Robert S. Chang, Seattle University School of Law
Kali N. Murray, Marquette University Law School
Donald F. Tibbs, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
2020 Section on Institutional Advancement Program
Matthew F. Calise, Georgetown University Law Center
Shawn Gavin, Cornell Law School
Janice Glander, The University of Michigan Law School
Darnell Hines, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Chair
Jini Jasti, University of Wisconsin Law School
Alan Paberzs, DePaul University College of Law
Tim Wortham, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School