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Law School Hosts Luminaries

February 05, 2009

Rarely do a federal agency, an association of private lawyers, and an academic institution join together to organize a conference.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor would know, and she brought this to everyone’s attention in her opening address at just such a remarkable event: the combined 40th anniversary celebration of the Federal Judicial Center and annual meeting of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, held September 18–19, at Lewis & Clark Law School.

And rarely, too, had such a star-studded constellation of federal judges, lawyers, and scholars appeared on Palatine Hill. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy gave the event’s keynote address, and the panels and presentations featured some of the country’s most prominent federal judges and legal scholars. These included Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of University of California at Irvine School of Law and Duke Law School’s Walter Dellinger, a former acting U.S. solicitor general.

During the events, both faculty and students gained remarkable access to Justices O’Connor and Kennedy: Each justice held question-and-answer sessions with students, and Justice Kennedy met with faculty for more than an hour and taught classes.

“It was a wonderful gathering, and an unusual one,” said Chuck Arberg, assistant division director for Judges and Attorneys Programs in the FJC’s Education Division.

As the research and education agency of the federal judicial system, the FJC sponsors numerous conferences each year to orient and educate federal judges and court employees. “But in this case,” Arberg explained, “we had an audience of judges, lawyers, AAAL members, and students. And typically if we have a program attended by Supreme Court justices, it’s one held in Washington, D.C. So to have two justices there was a great achievement.”

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