29 September 2011

Scalia commends Duquesne on the rigors of maintaining a Catholic law school

By Emily Shaffer, Juris Blogger
When I was in first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Seminary, gave my class a homework assignment to count 100 items and bring them to class the next day.  Through this assignment she meant to teach us that the number 100 really wasn't as unobtainable as we imagined as children.  I went home that day to do my homework and counted out 100 pieces of Trix cereal.   The pieces all fit into my mom’s smallest tupperware container.  I took them to class the next day and showed my peers how the number 100 really wasn't so big.

Mrs. Seminary taught us an important lesson that day.  She put us in touch with something we thought was the sky's limit.  But the truth is that there are still many situations where 100 of something is a lot larger than some Trix in a small container.  For example, 100 dollars to a law student is still a lot of money.  One hundred times to be called on in class is still 100 times too many.  And the thought of something lasting 100 years, even just a legacy, is still pretty scarce.

Photo by Tony Tye, Post-Gazette
Justice Scalia delivers the centennial keynote address, 
celebrating Duquesne University School of Law.
Unless you've been living in a cave away from email access, you know that this year Duquesne University School of Law brought the number 100 back into our grasp as we celebrate its centennial anniversary.  One hundred years ago on September 25, 1911, the School of Law had its first classes in the George Building located on Fourth Avenue.  Three years later, the first Duquesne law student, Oscar G. Meyer, passed the bar.  In 1914, Mrs. M. Murphy became the first woman to study at the law school, and the first African American graduated from Duquesne University School of Law in 1925.  The school was finally accredited by the ABA in 1962, and one year later Volume I of the Duquesne Law Review was published.  Juris Newsmagazine followed with its first publication in 1967.

The official 100-year anniversary of Duquesne University School of Law took place on Sunday, September 25, 2011, and on Saturday, September 24, the school happily hosted Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who gave the centennial keynote address.  This memorable event took place at the A.J. Palumbo Center after a luncheon with Justice Scalia in the Power Center, where the Justice spoke about balancing law school with other priorities and his philosophy that becoming a good writer requires reading good writing.

Justice Scalia was welcomed in front of a large audience by Dean Gormley, who recited a bit of the Justice's background, including his birth to an Italian immigrant father and a mother who was the daughter of Italian immigrants.  Dean Gormley also mentioned Justice Scalia's education, from the Jesuit-run Xavier High School in Manhattan, to Georgetown University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1957, and then to Harvard Law School where he graduated magna cum laude in 1960.  Justice Scalia became a member of the United States Supreme Court in 1986, and is the longest-serving Justice in the Court’s history.

Justice Scalia began his centennial keynote address with the topic of what it means to attend and maintain a Catholic law school.  He first addressed his belief that the meaning of law is not different for Catholics, Jews, and other religions, but should be uniform and avoid favored outcomes due to religious orientation.  He explained his legal belief on abortion, that he is not a "champion of the cause," but that because abortion is not addressed in the Constitution, it is for the states to decide.  Justice Scalia also recognized the few death penalty protestors who were standing outside the A.J. Palumbo Center, saying that if he thought the Catholic religion held the death penalty to be immoral, he would resign.  Justice Scalia stood firm, elaborating that he would never do something that was in opposition with his religion.

Justice Scalia also spoke about what a Catholic law school ought to empower, namely, a "discernibly Catholic environment, making faith a part of the atmosphere and making the students better men and women."

"If Christian faith or Christian values are not taught, then it wouldn't deserve to be called a Catholic University," Justice Scalia said.  He also spoke about balancing law school with other important aspects of life, saying "the here and now is less important than the hereafter when it is all said and done," and that the "rule of law is less important than the law of love."  Justice Scalia spoke about the costs that having a Catholic law school may carry, including the attraction of lawsuits and the narrow applicant pool that may potentially cut a school off from good talent.  He reinforced the importance in a Catholic law school standing strong on its moral foundation, and finished his speech by wishing the school several hundred more years.

The program moved forward with a panel discussion of past law clerks of Justice Scalia, where his former clerks spoke of him fondly.  Justice Scalia remarked to his clerks and the audience that our work should not define us, and we should keep our other responsibilities in high priority as well.  The Justice spoke about his views that the Constitution should not be interpreted, but should be read for its plain meaning.  On this topic, he remarked that his good friend Justice Brennan was the most influential Supreme Court Justice in the 20th century, and that his philosophy became so ingrained in our jurisprudence that it has been difficult for Justice Scalia to reverse.  On a more comical note, Dean Gormley mentioned that he was surprised to hear that the Justice mowed his own lawn, and Justice Scalia’s reply was that he does it because “it’s the manly thing to do.”

Following the panel discussion was a short film presentation honoring Justice Scalia's 25 years on the Court, the anniversary of which was Monday, September 26th.  The program concluded with the bestowal of the Carol Los Mansmann Award and a beautiful operatic interlude from students Grace Callahan, Rebecca Belczyk, and Andrey Nemzer of the Mary Pappert School of Music, showcasing another great aspect of Duquesne University and honoring the Justice's love of opera music.  The centennial celebration ended with a gala in the ballroom with around 300 guests.

After this long day of celebrating Duquesne University School of Law's "100 Years of Excellence," it was hard for anyone to ignore how far the school of law has come in 100 years.  Far above my 100 pieces of stale cereal in my first grade class, Duquesne University School of Law has brought honor to the number 100, and will continue to thrive in its Catholic values, graduate bright minds in the Pittsburgh areas, and be an asset to its community for the next 100 years.

For those interested in Duquesne University School of Law's history, the next centennial event will take place on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 in the William Patrick Power Center Ballroom.  The topic will be "A Celebration of 100 Years of Duquesne Women in the Law."

Emily Shaffer is a second year student at Duquesne University School of Law. She is a student ambassador for the law school and an intern for Judge McCormick in the Westmoreland Court of Common Pleas. Emily earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Communications and a minor in Spanish. She will graduate from Duquesne University School of Law in 2013, and can be reached at shaffere@duq.edu.