The George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC
by Devon Pryor
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As one of the oldest law schools in the country, The George Washington University Law School has had many years to establish a solid reputation. In the year 1900, the law school played an instrumental role in establishing the Association of American Law Schools. In 1936, it was declared an official graduate school, allowing it to award Juris Doctor degrees.
Well-known alumni of The George Washington University Law School include Belva Lockwood, the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court, and Leon Jaworski. According to online information source Wikipedia, Jaworski was the youngest person ever admitted to the Texas bar, and he participated as Special Prosecutor in the Watergate case against former President Richard Nixon. Distinguished legal professionals regularly address the law school's graduating class. Recent speakers include Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and Antonin Scalia, who is currently serving as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Among the facilities at The George Washington University Law School is the Jacob Burns Law Library. As the university's website explains, Burns, a 1942 graduate of GW Law, served on the board of directors at The George Washington University and was awarded the George Washington University Law Association's "Distinguished Alumnus" award in 1975. The library upholds the highly-regarded reputation of its namesake by providing extensive legal and law-related databases with information about U.S. national, international, and foreign laws. The library also holds a wealth of information related to the school's major law programs, including its environmental law, intellectual property law, and federal government programs, as well as material about growing areas of focus, such as international organizations and international human rights.
In addition to these essential library accoutrements, the Jacob Burns Law Library also holds many precious artifacts, some of which are particularly interesting to us as we celebrate Halloween. The special collections department of the library holds more than 10,000 rare books, incunabula, and manuscripts. Two such incunabula are editions of Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer) that date back to the years 1494 and 1500. The library's website announces plans to develop a number of special collections web pages, including one called "Trials: Witchcraft, Heresy, and the Inquisition."
The law school at The George Washington University also features a number of student organizations. These provide opportunities for students to assemble and interact in the contexts of various legal topics. Among these organizations is the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF), which has advocated for animal welfare and works in association with the Animal Law Litigation Project and The Humane Society of the United States. The Anarchist Collective (GWLAC) states their objectives as giving voice to anti-tyrannical social ideals and providing a forum for a freely discursive populace. The Culture of Life Society offers pro-life students chances to debate stem cell research, abortion, and death penalty issues. The Moot Court Board sponsors legal debate competitions internally among students; it also sponsors teams who compete in other schools around the nation. GW Law's Moot Court Board judges competitors based on written appellate briefs and oral arguments. The top 10% of competitors are usually invited to join the Moot Court Board.
Students at The George Washington University Law School are not alone in their passions to express their legal views and opinions. Many professors at the school are notably involved in the media, expressing their opinions in well-respected print media publications and weighing in on legal issues that are prominent in the public consciousness. In October of this year, Professor Jonathan Turley wrote and contributed an Op-Ed piece for the Los Angeles Times addressing the overcrowded prison system in the United States. In this piece, Turley discussed the possibility of removing prisoners who were elderly and considered low-risk. In a September 2006 edition of Legal Times, Professor Ralph Steinhardt weighed in on issues surrounding the Supreme Court case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which focused on the applicability of international law in domestic courts. Steinhardt suggested that, due to confusion surrounding the applicability of international law in domestic cases, law schools may need to elevate the status of international law education within the curriculum, where it is currently designated as an upper-level elective.