Almost 400 guests attended the 2018 Annual Gala of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) on Wednesday, June 6th, held in the beautiful Independence Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel. The event raised over $500,000 to support UDC Law’s Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program and Scholarship Funds. The UDC Law community of alumni, supporters, faculty and students turned out in force to honor outgoing Dean Katherine “Shelley” Broderick and Tony West, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Uber Technologies, Inc., for their outstanding commitment and service to the public interest, diversity and justice.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, University of the District of Columbia (UDC) President Ronald Mason, Jr. , Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Senior Advisor to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Beverly L. Perry, Chair of the UDC Board of Trustees and Partner at Ballard Spahr LLP Christopher Bell, President of the Legal Services Corporation James Sandman, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, family of the late D.C. Councilmember and namesake of UDC Law David A. Clarke, Carole Clarke and son Jeffrey Clarke, and Jon Bouker, Board Chair of the D.C. School of Law Foundation and Partner at Arent Fox LLP, were among those in attendance to celebrate the District of Columbia’s only public law school and the extraordinary community of faculty, staff, students and alumni committed to the public interest. The event showcased the work of students and faculty in UDC Law’s Housing and Consumer Law Clinic and Community Development Law Clinic, part of UDC Law’s nationally-recognized clinical program, and the outsized impact that D.C.’s only public law school has on the community.
The Little Law School That Can
UDC President Ronald Mason, Jr. gave opening remarks praising Dean Shelley Broderick’s two decades of leadership and reflecting on the powerful impact UDC Law has had on the University community and to the people of the District. “We are all hard at work transforming UDC into an advanced system of higher learning where our students aspire, accomplish, and take on the world.”
Jon Bouker, D.C. School of Law Foundation Chair, then took the stage to welcome the crowd and describe the critical role of the Foundation in raising private funds to support UDC Law’s students and programs, saying “Your support makes it possible for students who could not otherwise afford to attend law school to get a law degree,” while “giving back to the community, by providing 400 hours over the summer to government agencies, judicial chambers, and non-profits serving poor and vulnerable people.” He then introduced a five-minute video depicting UDC Law‘s mission and featuring members of the law school community.
Dean Shelley Broderick stepped up to the podium and remarked that, no matter how many times she views the video, “I can’t get through it without weeping. I so hope that you see what I see—a special law school that enables our students to practice law, promote justice and change the lives of D.C. residents.” She brought the audience to its feet with a rousing speech on the journey of the “Little Law School that Can” over nearly five decades, as it has held fast to its core mission to graduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented at the bar and to provide legal services to low-income District residents through its clinical programs.
Public School, Public Interest
The dinner service transitioned into a video presentation featuring UDC Law students and faculty in the School’s Community Development Law and Housing and Consumer Law Clinics. The presentation highlighted the important work of UDC Law’s clinics on the fiftieth anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which was the subject of the School’s two-day symposium “FHA@50: Renewing Our Commitment to Housing Equity.”
Several of the UDC Law students featured in the video then took the stage. Jason Diggs (’18) spoke about his work in the Community Development Law Clinic providing transactional legal services to community organizations and small businesses to increase community control and ownership of District resources. “I was raised by a single mother with three pretty rambunctious boys in a public housing project in southeast Virginia. I saw her win, I saw her lose, but I never saw her quit,” said Mr. Diggs. “In that clinic, I met people just like my mom, people with amazing stories, but difficult challenges. But now I had the privilege to offer them support—and hope—for social justice.” Mr. Diggs, who took a well-deserved break for the evening from his preparation for the bar exam, plans to practice housing and community development law. During the summer of his first year, Mr. Diggs was awarded a Rauh Summer Fellowship to serve with the Virginia Legal Aid Society where he represented low-income clients in civil matters including eviction defense. He went on to receive a Freddie Mac Fellowship in the summer of his second year, working as a judicial law clerk in HUD’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. His last semester, Mr. Diggs was an extern at Manna, a non-profit, affordable housing developer in D.C., working alongside Director of Project Development Rozanne Look (’82).
LaNise Salley (’19), who spent last semester as a student attorney with the Housing and Consumer Law Clinic, will continue on as a Rauh Summer Fellow at the clinic focusing on securing critical repairs for low-income D.C. renters. Ms. Salley emphasized the importance of UDC Law’s scholarship programs, saying “On behalf of myself and the family I’ve created here at UDC Law, thank you.” Last summer, Ms. Salley was selected as an Equal Justice America Summer Fellow and provided legal services to low-income D.C. residents in debt collection matters at Tzedek DC, an independent public interest center housed at UDC Law. Ms. Salley’s success as a summer fellow led Tzedek DC to retain her as an intern during the fall semester and feature her in a documentary highlighting the organization’s work.
Theo Wilhite (’19), a “double firebird” who served as student representative on the UDC Board of Trustees as an undergraduate, spoke powerfully about how he overcame a host of challenges to become a UDC Law student, saying “I got my life back and today I am not a victim. I am a victor, and I hope to take my lived experiences to continue to advocate for persons who find themselves in similar situations.” Mr. Wilhite spent his semester as a student attorney in the Housing and Consumer Law Clinic, where he represented low-income District residents and advanced the clinic mission to preserve and expand quality affordable housing. Mr. Wilhite spent last summer as a Rauh Summer Fellow working in the office of D.C. Councilmember Robert White and the D.C. Office of Planning, assisting in community development matters. He is currently a District Leadership Program fellow, working at the D.C. Office of Planning exploring the intersection of equity and land use. Mr. Wilhite is the incoming President of the Student Bar Association for the 2018-19 academic year.
Keilah Roberts (’19) decided to come to law school after her family faced eviction from her childhood home when she was a teenager, having watched her family of seven struggle in the civil court system without legal representation. “Fortunately, this case was handled by none other than the first lawyer I knew, my mother. Our lawyer, my mother, doesn’t have a law degree, a college degree or even high school diploma. But nonetheless she is still the fiercest advocate I know. Armed with my mother’s courage to defend others, I applied to law school.” This past semester, Ms. Roberts was a student attorney with the Community Development Law Clinic, where she provided transactional legal services to D.C.-based housing cooperatives and other community organizations. Ms. Roberts was awarded a Rauh Summer Fellowship in the summer of her first year, interning with the Honorable Zuberi B. Williams of the Sixth District Court of Maryland. This summer, Ms. Roberts will join the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau as a student attorney.
Law As Justice
Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and a Partner at Covington & Burling LLP, then took the stage for the award presentation honoring his former colleague, Tony West, who was a senior official in the U.S. Department of Justice in the Obama Administration. Mr. Holder regaled the audience with tales of Mr. West’s time as head of the Civil Division and later Associate Attorney General, praising Mr. West’s relentless work ethic and deep commitment to serving the public interest. Mr. Holder described Mr. West’s many accomplishments, ranging from his leadership in the Obama Administration’s review of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and the ultimate decision not to defend that statute, to his leadership in the DOJ’s challenges to discriminatory immigration laws passed in states such as Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah.
Mr. Holder also noted how fitting it is that Mr. West, a public interest champion, was honored by the nation’s preeminent public interest law school at a gala highlighting the students’ clinical work in the housing and community development area on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, saying “There is no better man to be here for such an occasion than Tony, who brought lawsuits under the act and made fair and bias free housing a priority for the Justice Department.”
Mr. Holder also harkened back to his 2010 Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Lecture at UDC Law, when he called for law schools around the country to follow UDC Law’s model and adopt clinical and community services as a requirement of the law school curriculum. “Given the state of our country now, and the threats to Legal Services Corporation funding, we need lawyers trained in the UDC Law clinical model, now more than ever before,” said Mr. Holder. “I renew my call for other law schools to look to UDC’s David A. Clarke School of Law for inspiration and consider adopting a serious clinic service requirement.”
Mr. Holder then introduced a video presentation which showcased Mr. West’s life and work and included congratulatory remarks from Mr. West’s sister-in-law U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), PepsiCo CEO and Chairman Indra K. Nooyi, founding partner of Kaplan & Company LLP and counsel to the Edith Windsor in the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, Roberta Kaplan, and Thomas Perrelli, former U.S. Associate Attorney General and partner at Jenner & Block. Mr. West also made prerecorded remarks, speaking about the support of his family and upbringing as the driving force for his life of public service and the importance of practicing law as a matter of justice. “I think about law as justice giving voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless. I think about law as justice helping us build a community of trust and a community of caring. That’s really the highest and best purpose of the law,” said Mr. West in the video.
Tony West, who personally donated $25,000, on top of Uber Technologies, Inc.’s $50,000 sponsorship of the event, then joined Mr. Holder on the stage and extended his thanks to his friend and mentor, saying “My onetime boss, my all-the-time brother in the pursuit of justice, thank you for your kind words, thank you for your friendship, and your guidance that you give to me every day.” Mr. West reflected on the truth of his statement, after leaving the Department of Justice in 2014, that “when the history of the Holder Justice Department is written,” history “would judge that period to be a high water mark of greatness because of Eric Holder’s unique and unflagging leadership.”
“I am very mindful on nights like this that I stand on a platform of progress built by others,” said Mr. West, noting that his success was only made possible by his family who came before him. Mr. West shared the inspiring story of his mother-in-law Dr. Shyamala Harris, who immigrated to the U.S. from India in the late 1950s to pursue breast cancer research at UC Berkeley. “When Mother Harris wasn’t making scientific strides in the lab or busy raising her two remarkable daughters as a single mother, Mother Harris was marching, and she was meeting, and she was organizing for civil rights.” Mr. West also credited his father, Franklin West, “whose birth in 1940 to a family of sharecroppers in rural Georgia didn’t hold much of a future that was much different from his family’s past, but who discovered a freedom in education that would allow him to unlock opportunities into which he’d not been born.” Mr. West’s father became the first in his family to go to college, attending Talladega College, an HBCU. “Throughout our lives in both word and countless deeds, dad instilled in us an expectation of service as part of our obligation as citizens. And when I think about the all-too-short life journeys of both Mother Harris and my dad I can’t help but think about how they embody the best of America’s great story,” said Mr. West.
Mr. West went on to explain that being a UDC Law honoree “is so humbling, so special, because you, the UDC Law School community, your teachings, your faculty, your students, your alumni, you, like Mother Harris, like my dad, you embody the best of America’s great story. You remind us that America’s true character calls on each of us to rise above and to reach out. As Bobby Kennedy said on the night before he died fifty years ago today, “We are a great country, an unselfish country, a compassionate country.” And the work this law school makes real in the world reminds us of this basic truth even when our own leaders forget. Indeed, that is when your work is most important. And those moments when we lose our way, and we forget who we truly are. So thank you UDC Law not only for this great honor but for the work you must continue to do, and we must continue to support, the work of practicing law, of promoting justice, of changing lives, because that effort builds platforms of progress on which we all can stand tall.”
A Life of Service
UDC Law’s Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Chair of Public Interest Law Wade Henderson then stepped to the podium to present the second honor of the night, recognizing outgoing Dean Shelley Broderick for her many years of service. Professor Henderson, former CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, shared his first impressions of the “one-of-a-kind” Dean when she recruited him to teach at UDC Law, speaking to “her passion, her crackling energy, and her intensity all combined with her joie de vivre and her good humor.” He praised Dean Broderick for her many years of service to a law school “dedicated to opening the legal profession to underrepresented people and to serving those most in need.”
Dean Broderick joined Professor Henderson on the stage and gave stirring remarks as she reflected on her four decades of service at the law school, saying “leading UDC Law has been the honor of my life.” Dean Broderick was recruited in 1979 to lead the Criminal Defense Clinic at Antioch School of Law, UDC Law’s predecessor, and went on to earn her M.A.T. in clinical legal education from the school. She said, “The legendary Edgar and Jean Cahn hired me at Antioch School of Law on June 9, 1979. When I was hired, Jean told me she was assigning me to the admissions committee and she said, ‘your job is to bring in 150 of the worst troublemakers you can find who want to make social change.’”
She went on to do just that. Indeed, Dean Broderick highlighted in her remarks, above all, the strength of the student body, praising “the personal qualities our graduates bring to the table—grit, resilience, passion for justice, and the ability to relate to and communicate effectively with people in poverty, people in many cases very much like their own families and friends.” She noted that last year, 41% of UDC Law’s graduating class went into public interest and government service, compared to a national average of just 16%. The National Law Journal recently ranked UDC Law No. 2 in the nation for government and public interest job placement.
Ever gracious, Dean Broderick insisted that “UDC Law is no one-man band. It is a brilliant orchestra performing at the highest level and meeting its mission.” She asked the crowd to rally behind her successor and reflected that, contemplating her many happy years serving the cause of UDC Law, “I am filled with gratitude for all of those who have served on our Board, for the University community for its embrasure of the law school, for our students, and for the legal community here in D.C., which has stepped up to support our public law school financially.” Toward the end of her remarks, Dean Broderick invited D.C. Council to renew its 50% match on funds raised and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson indicated his support. With $400,000 raised for the evening, the D.C. Council’s match will add in nearly $100K, bringing the scholarship and fellowship funds raised to $500,000.
D.C. Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson then took center stage. Councilmember Cheh then presented a resolution recognizing Dean Broderick’s exemplary twenty-year tenure as dean and many contributions to the people of the District, praising her for building an institution that will continue to serve students and communities in need well past her tenure as Dean of UDC Law.
Beverly L. Perry, Senior Advisor to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, then joined the members of the D.C. Council on the stage to congratulate Dean Broderick and present the Mayor’s Executive Proclamation recognizing her service to the city and its residents.
The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) is committed to the public interest, providing more than 100,000 hours of legal services to thousands of D.C. residents each year through its nine legal clinics. With the largest clinical requirement of any U.S. law school, its top-ranked program provides students the opportunity to gain experience in both direct representation and effective community activism and policy advocacy. This commitment has led to a No. 2 ranking by The National Law Journal for government and public interest job placement and No. 8 for Best Clinical Training Program by U.S. News & World Report. The diverse student body at UDC Law boasts significant representation by women, people of color and older students.