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Symposium honors retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor

February 26, 2010

A recent reunion for former clerks of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (Ret.) included a symposium where seven of them, all professors, discussed their work, ranging from surveillance law and the Constitutional rights of minors to the International Criminal Court and international lawmaking.

The event, held Friday, Feb. 19, in the Great Hall at the College of Law, also included remarks from Justice O'Connor and Charles Calleros, a law school professor, about Our Courts. The Web-based education project ( is designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in American democracy.

Featuring three online games for students and tools for teachers and parents, Our Courts is the vision of Justice O'Connor who is concerned that students aren't getting the training needed to become involved citizens. The Justice encouraged audience members to help spread the word about Our Courts.

"If we get this out there, we can affect an entire generation of young people and produce a generation that has much more understanding of our system of government," she said.

Addressing her clerks, Justice O'Connor said she always tried to select the most talented and smartest law-school graduates to be her clerks. "But I also tried to pick people I knew I would like, and I do," she said. "I'm very proud of all of you."

The symposium was divided into two sessions, on domestic legal issues, which was moderated by Professor and Dean Emeritus Paul Bender of the College of Law, and on international/transnational legal issues, moderated by Associate Professor David Gartner.

The domestic legal issues panel included Patricia Bellia of the University of Notre Dame Law School, Marci A. Hamilton of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, Kent Syverud, Dean of Washington University School of Law, and Eugene Volokh of the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. Participating on the international/transnational legal issues panel were Oona A. Hathaway of Yale Law School, Cristina Rodriguez of New York University School of Law, and Jane E. Stromseth of Georgetown University Law Center.

Syverud's talk, "The Uncertain Future of American Law Schools," was a good news/bad news view of the industry that concluded with suggestions for solving the most prevalent concern: employment. Despite the bad economy, he said, the United States has the best legal-education system and law schools in the world, and the quality of the schools' teachers and students has never been better.

"The students, faculty and work coming out of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law today, like I'd say about the top 50 law schools in the U.S., measures very favorably with Stanford Law School 50 years ago (when Justice O'Connor attended) because of advances in legal education," Syverud said.

Various concerns about law schools range from reduced government and private support, and diversity of faculty and students to high student debt and the notion that too many law schools exist, he said.

"But the reason to think there is an uncertain future for American law schools is different," Syverud said. "The real reason can be obtained by talking to any student at any law school. The real worry for American law schools is jobs, jobs, jobs."

To watch the video of the symposium, click here.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law