The Law School Magazine  ·  Winter 2013 : Features

A new class of professors joins Moritz: Three bring wealth of experience in the Supreme Court, civil rights defense, and nonprofit leadership

By - Winter 2013
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As sure as the leaves on the trees lining 12th Avenue and High Street turn from green to gold each autumn, new faces emerge in Drinko Hall – and not just with the incoming class of first-year students.

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law welcomed three new faculty members this academic year: Assistant Professor of Law Christopher J. Walker, Visiting Professor of Law Amna Akbar, and the newest Langdon Fellow in Dispute Resolution, Erin Archerd.

Former Supreme Court clerk teaches ‘dream’ class at Moritz

Walker learned quickly that sometimes the stars just align.

One day, while quietly working away at his clerk’s desk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court called: Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wanted to see Walker in Washington, D.C. in a week to talk about a clerkship position there.

While struggling to decide whether to choose Harvard or Stanford for graduate school, Walker figured out that one can, in fact, attend both.

And, when his favorite boyhood football team – the Florida Gators – was just starting to fade ever so slightly, it turns out Walker and his beloved former head coach, Urban Meyer, were interviewing to be Buckeyes at just about the same time.

“To this day I don’t know for sure how the Supreme Court thing happened,” Walker said. At the time, he was clerking for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in the Ninth Circuit. The year before, Walker had applied to all of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, as is etiquette; but he did not receive a single interview. So, he dove into his work with Kozinski. He also applied for and was accepted to work on the civil appellate staff at the U.S. Department of Justice after the clerkship ended. The job at the DOJ was a career position.

But, then one day the phone rang in chambers. Or, maybe it was a private outgoing call?

“I don’t know who called who. It wasn’t interview season,” Walker said. “All I know
is that Judge Kozinski walked into my office and said Justice Kennedy wanted to see me in Washington, D.C. the following week to interview for a clerkship position for October Term 2008. The judge and the justice know each other, and I had been working closely with Judge Kozinski on some important projects. I was obviously completely surprised.”

Walker spent a couple of hours with current clerks, “being grilled on substantive issues.” He then spent an hour with Kennedy, who expressed concern about whether the public understood the Supreme Court’s rulings. “Justice Kennedy’s concern for transparency and public understanding is something I’ve always admired,” Walker said.

He spent a year with the DOJ before heading to Justice Kennedy’s chambers, where he spent a year in the inner sanctum of the court. “Obviously, very few people know about how the Supreme Court works. They see oral arguments, and then they read opinions. But there is a very deliberative process that happens in between,” Walker said. “The justices interact primarily through written work going back and forth through draft opinions and comments.”

After finishing his clerkship, Walker worked for Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel P.L.L.C., a boutique litigation firm in Washington, D.C. In the three years prior to his arrival at Moritz, he worked on both appellate and trial cases.

Walker attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate. He had dreamed of attending Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government since he was a kid in Las Vegas. The problem was he also was interested in law and fell in love with Stanford on a visit to the law school.

“Stanford and Harvard law are really different,” Walker said. “Harvard is huge, with almost 550 J.D. students per class. Stanford is small, with one-third of the students. This meant I would have better access to professors, which was important to me because I knew I wanted to go into teaching.”

Walker did the logical thing: He attended both. He spent his first year of law school at Stanford and then a year at Harvard, partaking of the first year of classes at the Kennedy School. For years three and four, he jetted across the country taking classes at both Stanford and Harvard. “I loved law school. It is really about breadth and depth at the same time,” he said.

Walker’s favorite class in law school was constitutional litigation, which he took with Professor Pamela Karlan, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at  Stanford. Walker teaches the same class, Constitutional Litigation, at Moritz, in addition to Legislation and upper-level electives related to administrative law.

“That is one of the reasons I chose Moritz. It is a dream to teach this class,” he said. “It is a great mixture of constitutional law, civil procedure, and trial strategy. Lawyers really need to choose the right plaintiffs and defendants if the constitutional landscape is going
to change.”

Sharing passion for community lawyering projects

From Muslim to Arab and South Asian groups, from New York to that “state up North,” Akbar has put her lawyering skills to use in many communities. This fall, she began bringing them to students at Moritz as a visiting clinical professor of law.

After providing legal services to immigrant battered women and then representing men held by the United States in the extraordinary rendition and secret detention program, Akbar saw U.S. national security policies were encroaching on the rights of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities not just abroad, but at home as well. It was then that Akbar decided to combine her commitment in community legal services with her interest in critically examining national security policies.

In joining the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR) project of the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Clinic at City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law in the fall of 2011, Akbar set out to help support those communities whose rights were being encroached upon.

The CLEAR project was established in 2009 by CUNY students and faculty to address needs that weren’t being addressed by other legal service providers or civil rights groups. According to Akbar, raids on local Afghan communities underlined how law enforcement officials target Muslim communities for indiscriminate questioning and searches. Muslim community members needed a greater awareness for their legal rights and access to legal services to protect those rights, Akbar said.

As a supervising attorney and adjunct professor for the project, Akbar helped her students to take the lead in the innovative community lawyering project that combines legal services, support for community organizing initiatives, and rights awareness work. She said she hopes student in Moritz’s Civil Clinic will take away similar lessons as the students involved in the CLEAR project.

“I hope the students will take from the clinic critical thinking and reflective lawyering skills, grounded in clients’ realities,” Akbar said. “In clinic, students will learn how to meet with a client, listen to her talk about her dilemma, and then to think creatively and collaboratively about how to best use their lawyering skills to help the client achieve her goal.”

A graduate of University of Michigan Law School, the alumna of the “state up North” does not hold any animosity toward Buckeye Nation. “For most of my life I’ve been fairly agnostic about sports,” Akbar said, laughing. “I have never watched a University of Michigan football game, so I’m starting with a clean slate.”

After law school graduation, Akbar clerked for Gerard E. Lynch, now on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, when he served as a district court judge in the Southern District of New York.

Her scholarship focuses on national security, criminal law, and rights discourses. She also is committed to community-based lawyering projects, such as the CLEAR project.

“Community lawyering projects give students a rich context in which to learn what it means to be an attorney, the opportunities, privileges, and limitations to our role,” she said.

Langdon Fellow heralds from Harvard

Erin Archerd joined Moritz during its fall semester as the Langdon Fellow in Dispute Resolution. The two-year position includes teaching in the alternative dispute resolution field, acting as the clinical staff attorney for two mediation practica per academic year, and coaching moot court teams involved with dispute resolution competitions.

“Watching my mediation clinic students go from their initial training weekend to confidently drawing up settlement agreements and dealing with contentious parties is about as gratifying an experience as a teacher can have,” Archerd said. “I’ve been equally impressed with the Program on Dispute Resolution alumni I have interacted with here at Moritz and at events throughout Columbus.”

Archerd is a 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Latino Law Review as well as the advanced training director for the Harvard Mediation Program and the assistant head teaching fellow for Michael Sandel’s famous Justice course at Harvard College. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Stanford University.

After law school, Archerd joined the San Francisco office of Covington & Burling LLP, where she focused on corporate transactions, primarily in the information technology and biotechnology sectors, as well as preparing an amicus brief for the Supreme Court on language education policy. Prior to joining Moritz, she had relocated to Kalamazoo, Mich., where she worked as program coordinator at Humanities for Everybody, an adult-education program that provides free courses in the humanities to low-to-moderate-income residents of the area. In addition to dispute resolution, her research interests include education law and Latino law and policy.

The College’s Program on Dispute Resolution was a major attraction when Archerd considered coming to Columbus. “One of the highlights of my legal education at Harvard was the depth and breadth of its course offerings in dispute resolution, and there are only a handful of schools across the country that can begin to match, and even exceed, Harvard – Moritz is one of them,” she said.

She co-taught Mediation during the fall semester with Associate Professor Amy Cohen – a “tremendous learning experience,” she said – and teaches Multiparty Mediation with Joseph “Josh” Stulberg, the Michael E. Moritz Chair in Alternative Dispute Resolution, in the spring. Archerd says she expects to gain more insights into her own teaching methodology through these kinds of opportunities and through mentoring from other faculty members. She said, “Based on the accounts of some of my friends who are also young academics, this is something that can be rare at other institutions.”

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