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Leading national legal research institute honors Stanford Law’s Deborah Rhode with Outstanding Scholar Award

Stanford Law School Professor Deborah L. Rhode

Stanford Law School Professor Deborah L. Rhode

Stanford, Calif., February 10, 2014 – Stanford Law School’s Deborah L. Rhode accepted the Outstanding Scholar Award from The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation at a weekend ceremony in Chicago, Ill. The American Bar Foundation announced the award in a January 27th press release. Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, Director of the Center on the Legal Profession and Director of the Program in Law and Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford Law School.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Professor Rhode has become a highly lauded and frequently cited scholar on legal ethics,” said Don Slesnick, Chair of The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. “From her groundbreaking work on access to justice to her unique contributions to research on gender and the law, Rhode’s prolific career exemplifies the type of outstanding scholarship that The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation seeks to recognize through the Outstanding Scholar Award.”

Rhode’s interest in legal ethics and access to justice began very early in her legal career.

During law school, Rhode worked for a legal services office that wanted to create a kit to help low-income people represent themselves in legal matters. With relatively few legal resources available to the poor at the time, the kits could have significantly improved access to justice for those who needed it most. The local bar association, however, frowned upon the effort and threatened to sue, arguing that the kits represented the unauthorized practice of law. Consequently, the office chose to shelve the project.

These developments “struck me as just wrong on so many levels,” Rhode says.

Believing that the bar association erred in doctrine and in policy—and sensitive to the group’s economic self-interest in clamping down on the kits—Rhode researched the matter further. She found that when another organization made similar kits available to the public, kit-users made about the same number of mistakes as those who had attorneys representing them.

This work, which was published in the Yale Law Journal, “convinced me both to become an academic and to write about issues of legal ethics, and particularly those related to access to justice,” Rhode explains.

For Rhode, legal ethics and access to justice are inextricably intertwined.

“What passes for justice among the have-nots is scandalous,” Rhode declares, adding that access to justice is “an integral part of legal ethics instruction.”

And she is aware of the critique that ethics cannot be taught: “There is definitely a view that either students have it or they don’t.”

But as Rhode clarifies, empirical legal research suggests that young adults’ strategies for dealing with ethical challenges are malleable. Rhode’s own approach to teaching legal ethics involves a combination of well-taught simulations, real-life problems and case histories. Additionally, Rhode prefers to spend more time on ethical questions that implicate conflicting values and true dilemmas rather than on questions with easy answers.

Rhode is the founding president of the International Association of Legal Ethics, the former president of the Association of American Law Schools, the former chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, the former founding director of Stanford’s Center on Ethics and the former director of Stanford’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

Rhode has also won numerous awards, including the American Bar Association’s Michael Franck Award for contributions to the field of professional responsibility, the American Bar Foundation’s W.M. Keck Foundation Award for distinguished scholarship on legal ethics, the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award for her work on expanding public service opportunities in law schools and the White House’s Champion of Change award for a lifetime’s work in increasing access to justice.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Vice-Chair of the Board of Legal Momentum, Rhode is a highly accomplished scholar. She has authored or coauthored more than 20 books and 250 articles. Rhode is also a columnist for the National Law Journal and has published editorials in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and Slate. Her recent publications include The Beauty Bias, Woman and Leadership, Legal Ethics, Gender and Law, Moral Leadership and Access to Justice.

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Prominent civil rights advocate helps Stanford Law School honor 50 years of Civil Rights Act, warns about continuing structural discrimination

Eva Jefferson Paterson delivering the keynote address at "The Civil Rights Act at 50."

Eva Jefferson Paterson delivering the keynote address at “The Civil Rights Act at 50.”

Stanford, Calif., February 3, 2014 – America is not yet a post-racial society and Americans must “look at the notion and the existence and vitality of structural racism” in order to move forward, suggested Eva Jefferson Paterson, President and Co-Founder of the Equal Justice Society, at a recent symposium at Stanford Law School celebrating the history and legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Paterson, an attorney with a distinguished record of championing civil rights, gave the keynote address at the symposium entitled “The Civil Rights Act at 50.”

Welcoming Paterson to the stage, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School M. Elizabeth Magill hailed Paterson’s decades of leadership and many accomplishments in tackling barriers to equality. Magill observed that the symposium provided an opportunity to reflect “about where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going” fifty years after the passage of “perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation of the 20th century.” Magill added that Paterson’s keynote address would be especially helpful in that reflection.

Paterson’s work on civil rights litigation and policy began in the 1970s. She served in a broad coalition that successfully challenged discriminatory practices in the San Francisco Fire Department and has been a leading spokesperson for statewide campaigns against the death penalty, juvenile incarceration and discrimination against members of the LGBT community. As a 20-year-old student leader, she debated Vice President Spiro Agnew on live television.

This experience allowed her to “think about a lot of ideas and connect the dots” in preparing her keynote remarks, Paterson said.

Paterson spoke of the history of violence, indignity and terror that permeated the United States before the Civil Rights Act and commended the courage of those who suffered in that climate. She noted that the violence and terror peaked during a relentless series of major events in 1963, including sit-ins and marches in Birmingham, Ala., the bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four children, the persistent refusal of Alabama Governor George Wallace to allow school desegregation, and the assassinations of civil rights activist Medgar Evers and President John F. Kennedy, who had called for federal civil rights legislation.

According to Paterson, these events helped propel the ultimate passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: “Americans, in their living rooms, saw the viciousness” of racial discrimination and its consequences.

During her address, Paterson also encouraged students to engage with their surroundings and push back against prejudicial ideas. She noted that a Stanford Law education is a serious credential and would position SLS students to be leaders in resisting discrimination.

“If you just let this stuff slide, in this environment, that’s not good,” Paterson cautioned.

And though she expressed concerns about efforts to weaken the Civil Rights Act, Paterson still affirmed the “forward momentum of the law” and encouraged its expansion to cover additional categories, such as age and disability. Paterson also warned the audience about negative depictions in popular culture of people of color, women and members of the LGBT community and discussed how cognition can fuel discrimination because people act upon unconscious biases.

Finally, she pressed Stanford Law students to pursue work that helps fight discrimination with their unique skillset, including litigation, scholarship, and becoming public intellectuals.

“Students, use your careers for good,” Paterson urged.

“The Civil Rights Act at 50” featured two dozen scholars and practitioners, including several members of Stanford Law School’s faculty. The symposium was co-sponsored by the Stanford Law Review and the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Presidential Commission Releases Election Recommendations and Report Based on Research Directed by SLS Professor Nathaniel Persily

SLS Professor Nathaniel Persily

Stanford, Calif., January 22, 2014—The Presidential Commission on Election Administration has issued a report containing a frank assessment of electoral problems in the United States and recommending significant electoral reforms, the White House announced today. Nathaniel Persily, JD ’98, the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at SLS, serves as Senior Research Director of the Commission. The Commission also has two co-chairs: Benjamin Ginsberg, a visiting lecturer at SLS and former national counsel to Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, and Robert Bauer, former general counsel to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. The report is entitled “The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.”

“Our aim was to transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters,” said Bauer and Ginsberg.

The bipartisan, 10-member Commission was formed last March to help identify best practices in election administration and promote the efficient administration of elections. The Commission was especially determined to ensure that eligible voters can cast their ballots without undue delay and to improve the experience of voters who face other obstacles in casting their ballots, such as members of the military and people with disabilities or limited English proficiency. In conducting its work, the Commission held public meetings and hearings and consulted election officials and voting rights experts nationwide.

Some of the report’s key recommendations are as follows:

  • Modernization of the registration process through continued expansion of online voter registration and expanded state collaboration in improving the accuracy of voter lists,
  • Measures to improve access to the polls through expansion of the period for voting before the traditional Election Day, and through the selection of suitable, well-equipped polling place facilities, such as schools,
  • State-of-the-art techniques to assure efficient management of polling places, including tools the Commission is publicizing and recommending for the efficient allocation of polling place resources, and
  • Reforms of the standard-setting and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines and to encourage innovation and the adoption of widely available off-the-shelf technologies.

“The Commission took on a very difficult problem and did not pull punches in its recommendations,” said Persily. “Problems in recent elections, such as long lines at the polling place, affect millions of voters, and impending challenges, such as the specter of widespread breakdown of aging voting machines, require a concerted effort to ensure American democracy meets voters’ expectations.”

Persily is an award-winning teacher and nationally-recognized constitutional law expert who focuses on the law of democracy, addressing issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance and redistricting. He is a highly sought-after nonpartisan voice in voting rights and has served as a special master for congressional redistricting efforts in Connecticut and as a court-appointed nonpartisan expert for legislative districting plans in Georgia, Maryland and New York.

Persily has also published dozens of articles in both scholarly publications and popular media about the legal regulations of political parties, issues surrounding the census and redistricting process, voting rights and campaign finance reform. He is currently editing a volume on Solutions to Political Polarization, which will be published in the Fall.

Before joining SLS’ faculty last July, Persily was the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Columbia Law School, where he also founded and directed the Center for Law and Politics. Persily was recently elected to the prestigious American Law Institute.

Persily and Ginsberg are teaching a class in the Winter quarter about the legal regulation of elections and politics. Ginsberg has represented multiple political campaigns and candidates, as well as elected officials, political parties and individuals participating in the political process. He also has extensive experience in redistricting at the state legislative level.

The report and related online tools are available now. Additional information can be found at the Commission’s website.

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Stanford's 2013 Annual Report celebrates research highlights from Stanford Law School

The following research highlights originally appeared in Stanford’s 2013 Annual Report and were featured in Stanford Report.

SLS Professor Hank Greely (photo credit: Steve Gladfelter)

Ethics of resurrecting extinct species explored

Scientists predict that within 15 years they will be able to revive some more recently extinct species, such as the dodo or the passenger pigeon, raising the question of whether or not they should. In Science, Hank Greely, the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, identifies the ethical landmines of this new concept of de-extinction and recommends that the government leave de-extinction research to private companies and focus on drafting new regulations.

SLS Professor Michael McConnell

Citizens United ruling hardly revolutionary

In his article, “In Defense of Citizens United,” published in the Yale Law JournalMichael McConnell, the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law, wrote a reappraisal of the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling about campaign contributions. McConnell argues the academic outcry against the Citizens United ruling missed the point, which he attributes partly to a confusing ruling that “gives off a lot of vibes of overreaching and not being well focused.” In fact, he says, the ruling is hardly revolutionary when restated in simple terms.

SLS Professor Joan Petersilia

Realignment legislation encourages reentry cooperation

Stanford Law School students researching the implementation of California’s Public Safety Realignment legislation and aspects of the parole process for California “lifer” inmates believe the law led to greater cooperation between local agencies. Realignment, which shifts back to counties the resources and responsibility for supervising their offenders, encourages agencies to collaborate in providing more effective reentry of paroled prisoners. The research, given to Gov. Jerry Brown, was supervised by Joan Petersilia, the Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law.

SLS Professor George Triantis

Disruption and innovation in transactional law practice

After a series of articles that explore techniques for improving the design of business contracts, George Triantis, the James and Patricia Kowal Professor of Law, has turned his attention to the process of contract design and management as it is undertaken inside corporations and their law firms. In “Improving Contract Quality: Modularity, Technology and Innovation in Contract Design,” published in the Stanford Journal of Law, Business and Finance, Triantis analyzes the impact and potential of new contract automation technology in both cutting costs and improving the quality of contracts.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

At Stanford, inaugural Bright Award lecturer makes a passionate plea to preserve the world's forests

Tasso Azevedo, a forestry manager and climate change consultant in Brazil, was awarded the inaugural Bright Award at Stanford yesterday. In his acceptance speech, he made a stirring argument for preserving the world’s forests and for governments to take a more urgent approach to mitigating climate change.

This news story was originally published December 11, 2013 in Stanford Report.

By Bjorn Carey

In the inaugural Bright Award Lecture, Tasso Azevedo, a consultant and social-environmental entrepreneur in the field of forests, sustainability and climate change in Brazil, detailed the underappreciated value of forests, and made a passionate plea for greater efforts to preserve them for future generations.

“With this award, Ray Bright particularly sought to recognize unsung people who were actively leading efforts to protect or reinvigorate an area and lead it toward a more environmentally sound future,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School.

Azevedo, she said, fits Bright’s vision perfectly as a person who has crossed disciplines and worked with scientists, politicians, businesses and entrepreneurs to accomplish actions that will preserve the environment for future generations.

“I’m very honored to be here to accept this prize. It was quite a surprise,” he said. “You’re not only giving it to me, you’re giving it to thousands of people that I’ve had the privilege to interact with and learn from while trying to fight the challenge of deforestation.”

Azevedo choked up as he thanked his wife and their 4-year-old daughter. “I worked in the forest for many years, and the thing about my daughter is I think I just realized what it means to talk about sustainability for next generations,” he said.

Over the past 18 years, Azevedo’s innovative ideas on promoting sustainable forest management have contributed to a reduction in the rate of deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent, along with a 35 percent reduction of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions. His work serves as a formula for similar efforts around the world.

Azevedo founded the Brazilian non-governmental organization Imaflora – the leading environmental certification institution in Brazil – to create alternatives to deforestation. He served as the first chief and director general of the Brazilian Forest Service, and helped establish the Amazon Fund, which is dedicated to conserving forests in the Amazon and around the world.

He has since worked tirelessly as a socio-environmental entrepreneur to develop plans and measures to help Brazil reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36.1 percent by 2020.

Forests, he said, make up just 10 percent of the planet, but play an essential role in regulating climate. In some parts of the world, evaporation from forests can account for 70 percent of rain.

Tropical forests, which account for 25 percent of all forests, are responsible for capturing 50 percent of atmospheric carbon, and are home to 90 percent of the planet’s species.

“There’s no way a manmade environment can match anything that forests can give us,” he said.

Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill presents the Bright Award to Tasso Azevedo. (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

The temptation to cut them down, however, is strong. Forests are clear-cut to free up land for new people, to grow food or to produce energy. Forestry products are everywhere around us, he said, in our paper, clothes, automobiles, buildings, food and more.

As he worked to save forests, he became more aware not only of deforestation’s role in climate change – deforestation accounts for 10 percent of global emissions – but also the threat that climate change posed to the very things he was trying to preserve. He established the Amazon Fund, the largest forest conservation fund in the world, as a way to combat deforestation and combat climate simultaneously.

Human activity is responsible for emitting 50 billion tons of carbon emissions per year. That number needs to drop to 10 billion tons by 2050, Azevedo said, which will require a major effort at both the country and individual levels.

Governments focus too much on placing blame or responsibilities on other nations, he said, when they should really engage in reaching global agreements that move the discussion and science forward. Individuals, however, should make their own changes while waiting for governments to act.

Each human is responsible for producing seven tons of carbon per year. Activities such as owning a car or taking a flight to Europe account for one ton each.

“By 2050, we have to get to one ton of carbon per person,” he said. “We have to completely reinvent ourselves. There’s no space for incremental improvements.”

Currently, 60 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases are the result of energy production or consumption. To overcome this, countries must become more responsible both in the ways that they generate energy and in how they use it.

It is a daunting task, Azevedo said, but Brazil’s success reducing the rate of deforestation, which accounted for 60 percent of its emissions, provides a road map for large-scale change.

“If we can face the challenge of deforestation in Brazil, which is our 60 percent, then I think we can all definitely do it on energy,” he said. “But we need commitment.”

The Bright Award, issued by Stanford Law School in collaboration with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, is the only honor of its kind to recognize significant achievement in conservation in different regions of the world and is the top environmental award at Stanford. Next year’s recipient will be chosen from North America.

The award was created by a gift to Stanford Law School in 2007 from Raymond E. Bright Jr., JD ’59, on behalf of his late wife, Marcelle, and himself. Mr. Bright died in 2011. For more details, visit http://brightaward.stanford.edu/.