Derrick Bell Award to Denver Law’s Professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández

January 05, 2015

Denver Law’s Professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández received the 2015 Derrick Bell Award at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting, held January 2-5, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The AALS Minority Groups Section annually presents the Derrick Bell Award to a junior faculty member who, through activism, mentoring, colleagueship, teaching and scholarship, has made an extraordinary contribution to legal education, the legal system or social justice. The award is named in honor of the late Professor Derrick A. Bell, Jr., the first tenured African-American on the Harvard Law School faculty.

Professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández’s remarks on receiving the Derrick Bell Award:

“Thank you very much. It is truly humbling to receive this honor.

“Derrick Bell represents many things to many people in this room and elsewhere. To some he was a friend and colleague.

“I didn’t know Professor Bell well enough to make such claims. I met him twice only—once as a law student and years later as a law professor. Those encounters were enough to show me the humility with which he carried himself.

“Here was a towering intellectual, a pioneering professor, an engaging writer, a man who had confronted the great indignities of his time clear-eyed about the costs to himself, and someone with sufficient confidence to critically reflect on the complicated nature of his own role in our nation’s and our profession’s ethical evolution. But he was also a man who made time to shake hands with the star-struck student, to encourage the still star-struck newbie professor, to ask questions, to listen thoughtfully, and to laugh.

“For those reasons, to me, Derrick Bell represents a life well lived, and a legacy that continues to teach.

“Professor Bell’s example pushes me to recognize my own privilege as he did his. I get to think, write, and teach for a living. I get to shape the next generation of lawyers while getting to think critically and systematically about what law is and what it ought to be. And I get to do that with wonderful students alongside fabulous colleagues at the University of Denver.

“To me, Derrick Bell also represents a life lived with the humility to acknowledge my own many, many failings. I am a teacher who frequently struggles to help students stay on the course of social justice when they are mired in mounting debt and facing dim job prospects. I am a lawyer who sees the many instances in which law becomes a blunt instrument of indignity and forgets that there is also hope in law, that law can be a radical tool of resistance and a great moral compass.

“And Professor Bell represents a life lived in communion. I stand here because so many others have worked tirelessly to guide me when I needed direction and to inspire me when I needed encouragement. There are simply too many people who fit that description to list, but a few can’t go unmentioned. Anthony Farley, who salvaged my 1L soul when it was floundering. Frank Valdes, Margaret Montoya, Sumi Cho, Tayyab Mahmud, and others who built LatCrit, my intellectual home in the legal academy.

“And a final group that deserves special thanks. Kim Chanbonpin, who was randomly assigned to comment on a draft years ago and then took on a role in my life that I find impossible to explain. She is a friend. Thank you, Kim, for the kind words you shared about me. Thank you for thinking that I deserved this award. Thank you for thinking that I deserve your friendship. Thank you for all that you are to me and my family.

“My family. My wife Margaret Kwoka is also my colleague at DU. She and our son Zolín remind me that it’s necessary to fight injustice today because I hope for a just world tomorrow. They remind me to wield my skills and privilege with the awareness that we live in a world where the accident of birth so often dictates the fruits that life reaps, where walls and fences, borders, bullets, and wealth so often bring excess to our own plates while denying others the basic necessities of life.

“Margaret and Zolín inspire me to do as Professor Bell did and dream dreams of freedom about one day we living in a world where violence is not a feature of life, where premature death is but a tale that the elders recite, and the pangs of hunger are nothing more than a nightmare from which it’s possible to awaken.

“And they also remind me that no article I ever write, no lecture I ever give, no class I ever teach, and no award I ever receive will be as important as the hikes we take, the tumbles we share, the bad movies we watch, and the dirty diapers we collectively experience. Thank you Margaret and Zolín for letting me come along on life’s adventure.

“And thank you all for your kindness and support. I hope that I can bring honor to this recognition.”

Professor Hernández is pictured below with Janet Dewart Bell, Derrick Bell’s widow, and Margaret Kwoka, Professor Hernández’ wife and fellow Denver Law professor.
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December 2014 Edition of the IACA Newsletter

December 01, 2014

Link (PDF) »


Tanzanian Ambassador Liberata Mulamula: “Africa is not Hopeless”

November 20, 2014

Yesterday, the Tanzanian Ambassador to the United States, Liberata Mulamula spoke about Conflict Resolution in Africa: Hurdles and Hardships. She talked about the role of women at the negotiating table, the perception of Africa in the rest of the world, and past peace negotiations during and after the genocide in Rwanda. The takeaway from her talk was that there is hope for Africa. A large number of students and a few professors enthusiastically participated in the question and answer session.

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Professor Sahar Aziz on incorporating race into the law school curriculum

November 01, 2014

Sahar Aziz, associate professor of law at Texas A&M University and pictured below, talks about incorporating race into law school teaching in the Fall 2014 newsletter distributed by the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations, located at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Studying race, says Professor Aziz, “is necessary to appreciating the historical basis that led to current public policy and legal doctrine.” The failure to incorporate race into the curriculum means that “law schools will continue to graduate critical masses of students raised in an increasingly segregated society who have minimal, if any experience, interacting with and understanding the experiences of persons from non-majority races, ethnicities, and religions.”

See the Florida Law Center for the Study of Race and Relations Fall 2014 newsletter here. Go to pages 10-11 to read Professor Aziz’ comments in full.

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DU’s SCOL Honored to Welcome IACHR Comm. Rosa Ortiz

October 23, 2014

On Tuesday evening, the Sturm College of Law welcomed the IACHR Commissioner Rosa Ortiz, who is also the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child. She presented a lecture on “Juvenile Justice in the Americas” and also mentioned her visits to juvenile detention centers in Denver. After her lecture, Richard, a man who was imprisoned when he was 17 years old, told his story of imprisonment in an adult detention facility. Kim Dvorchak from the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition told the audience of the changes in laws in Colorado.

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Interview with Amanda Dunn

October 23, 2014

imageThe MSLA recently had the pleasure of speaking with current student Amanda Dunn, who is presently the Court Administrator for the Fort Morgan Municipal Court in Fort Morgan Colorado. Amanda was appointed to this position as the Interim Administrator in August 2013, appointed as the official administrator in November 2013, and has worked in the legal industry since 1998 and specifically with the judicial system since 2006. Amanda was recently named Employee of the Quarter, and credits her success to her overall demeanor stating that she is a very approachable person and is not afraid to raise concerns so that they can be addressed in a timely fashion. She is someone who can be relied upon to complete tasks without being micromanaged and is always willing to jump in and assist others in departments that are not her own. She goes on to state that in this line of work you have to maintain a sense of humor and remain personable, otherwise it is very easy to lose yourself to the negativity that sometimes surrounds you.

When asked what drew Amanda to the profession, she stated that “I was drawn to this profession after working for the law firm of Pabst & Milano in Brush, Colorado. Working at Pabst & Milano provided me with an insight into the legal realm and the court system. I quickly came to realize that the legal profession is something that I wanted to continue into the future. A particular instance that made me realize this is what I wanted to do was when we were working with a client who was going through a divorce after 30+ years of marriage. Coming to the office was difficult for her and she would often time break down in tears. Mr. Milano had me contact this client to find out when she would be bringing her initial documents back to the office for filing with the court. In speaking with this particular client it became apparent that she needed some accommodation in getting her documents notarized and back to our office. I made arrangements to meet with the client at her place of employment to notarize her documents and bring them back to the office. Later that afternoon I received a flower arrangement and thank you card from the client telling me how much she appreciated me accommodating her and helping her get her documents in order. Knowing that I had made a difference in this person’s life made my job extremely fulfilling and I wanted to continue on in this line of work. “

As an administrator, Amanda is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the court. She prepares the annual budget for the court as well as presents the budget to City Council. In addition to the preparation of the budget, she is also responsible for updating contracts and preparing RFQs and RFPs when necessary. Another responsibility of Amanda’s is case flow management and data analysis of court proceedings/case filings, and she works closely with the City Manager, City Clerk, Assistant City Attorney and Municipal Court Judge to ensure that the court is in compliance with new legislation and rules. As the administrator she is responsible for implementing new policies, procedures, and programs as well as ensuring compliance with existing policies, procedures, and programs. She is responsible for record requests as well as record retention and destruction. Because she is in a smaller community she also act as the backup to the City Clerk when coverage is needed at City Council Meetings. In addition to all of the managerial tasks that she completes, she also assists her clerk with case initiation, case closure, filing, and any other duties that need to be handled on a daily basis.
Amanda went on to talk about how much she loves the people she gets to work with, even stating that this was her favorite part of her job. “I have had the pleasure of working with many great judicial officers, court administrators, clerks of court and judicial assistants. I also enjoy the challenge that this position offers. It is exciting to be able to present new ideas that will increase efficiency and productivity while streamlining the work that is to be completed at all levels.”

Amanda believes that the major challenges facing the courts today, is the overall perception by the public. She elaborates stating that there are times when the court system is viewed in a negative light and it is for a plethora of reasons: unfriendly staff, lack of knowledge, bias opinions, etc. Amanda continues to state that she is very passionate about the public perception of the court, and feels it necessary to treat everyone who walks through the courthouse with dignity and respect regardless of the reason they are appearing. Amanda believes that it is important to implement programs that assist the public with understanding the court procedures such as the Family Court Facilitator programs or the Self-Help Centers that are now housed in most courts. She states that “if we continue to help the public understand the procedures and judges ensure procedural fairness I believe that on some level we can change the public’s perception of the judicial system.”

When asked specifically about MSLA, Amanda stated that although she was accepted to law school, she came across the MSLA program and found it to be in line with her current career as well as what she hopes to continue to do in the future. She is currently in her third semester of the program, and states that Applied Leadership and Management Theory, Human
Resources, Strategic Planning, and The Business of the Courts have been the most beneficial courses to her thus far. Amanda credits the MSLA courses with providing her with a better overall understanding of the court system, and that some of the courses she has taken thus far have shown her different areas of the court that she does not typically deal with, which she believes will assist her in becoming a more well-rounded employee who has insight to areas that she may have not otherwise been exposed to.

The advice Amanda would give to others who hope to one day work in court administration is to be persistent in your endeavors but always remain true to who you are. If there is one thing that this position (as well as previous positions) has taught me is that you have to remain personable and keep your sense of humor. There are a lot of people who rely on you to answer questions and fix their problems on any given day. You cannot allow the stress to overtake your ability to satisfactorily complete your job. I would also say that it is important to be open to new ideas. Allow your employees to be a part of the “team” and acknowledge their efforts and contributions.


Larry Johnson talk on Lawyering in the UN Video

October 14, 2014

Can’t make it to the Larry Johnson talk on Lawyering in the UN at noon today? Watch it here.


Denver Post Article by Professor Nanda on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

October 13, 2014

The Denver Post.com – Opinion

Ved Nanda: India’s Modi is a Visionary

During his recent five-day, high-profile visit to the U.S., India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, had a distinct message for the various groups he addressed. These included the Indian diaspora, the international community, the U.S. administration, and top American CEOs.

I was among the more than 18,000 mostly Indian-Americans welcoming Modi at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he responded to chants of “Modi, Modi” by saying, “You have given me such a warm and loving welcome that I am deeply indebted to you. I want to repay the debt by promising you that you will be proud of the new India.”

More than 30 lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate were also in attendance. The crowd loudly cheered when Modi pledged to speed the visa process for visitors from the United States. The Indian American Community Foundation orchestrated the entire show.

As Modi addressed the U.N. General Assembly and the Council on Foreign Relations, his message was clear: India is able and willing to shoulder its duty to be a responsible member of the world community.

As Modi and President Obama met in the Oval Office, Obama said, “We have so much in common, it is critical for us to deepen and broaden the existing framework and partnership that already exists.” Modi reciprocated, saying he expected the economic partnership between the U.S. and India “to grow rapidly in the coming years.” The Obama administration cleared the way for India to purchase American technology for clean energy projects with $1 billion in financing from the Export-Import Bank of the Untied States.

At a dinner given by President Obama in Modi’s honor at the White House, Modi drank only warm water as he was fasting in observance of the annual nine-day Hindu religious festival, Navaratri. In a joint statement, the two governments pledged to expand cooperation in multiple fields, including defense. Defense cooperation relates to maritime security, naval technology, and military exercises. They acknowledged the “need to use the institutions and expertise of the Montreal Protocol to reduce consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons.”

They said they will work jointly on efforts to “boost manufacturing and expand affordable renewable energy, while sustainably securing the future of our common environment.”

Earlier, Obama and Modi jointly authored a commentary in The Washington Post, saying that “as global partners, we are committing to enhancing our homeland security by sharing intelligence, through counterterrorism and law-enforcement cooperation, while we jointly work to maintain freedom of navigation and lawful commerce across the seas.” This language unequivocally shows shared concern with Chinese sovereignty claims and naval exercises and activities in the South China Sea.

For American business, Modi’s message was that India welcomes foreign direct investment with its vision of a transformed, business-friendly country free of bureaucratic red tape. And for people back home in India, the media played Modi’s image as a rock star who has given India’s status a well-deserved boost. The signal was clear that India is assuming a leadership role in the international arena.

While this visit succeeded in its intention to mend the strained relations between the U.S. and India, differences remain that cannot be glossed over. On the economic front, intellectual property rights remain a vexing issue. So are India’s rules on civil nuclear liability. On global trade, India’s dissatisfaction with progress on food security measures scuttled the World Trade Organization’s proposed trade facilitation agreement. The agreement would have reformed cumbersome customs procedures.

On the political front, differences exist, as well. The U.S. and India do not see eye-to-eye on many critical matters, such as Ukraine, Iran and Syria. Working groups from both countries are meeting to bridge these differences.

The visionary but also pragmatic Modi has reopened the door for further meaningful cooperation between the oldest democracy and the largest democracy in the world.

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Denver Law at the 2014 SALT Teaching Conference

October 11, 2014

Denver Law sent a strong and vocal contingent to the 2014 SALT (Society of American Law Teachers) Teaching Conference, held October 9 thru 11 at the University of Nevada Law Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law.

SALT is “a community of progressive law teachers working for justice, diversity and academic excellence,” goals falling squarely in line with the aims of Denver Law attendees, all members of RPL – the Rocky Mountain Collective for Race, Place and Law. And Denver Law’s RPL members shined at the Conference:

Margaret Kwoka, assistant professor at Denver Law, received the inaugural SALT Junior Faculty Teaching Award, recognizing “an outstanding, recent entrant into the legal academy who demonstrates a commitment to justice, equality and academic excellence through teaching.” Read more about Professor Kwoka’s award here.

At Thursday’s Twelfth Annual LatCrit-SALT Junior Faculty Development:

  • Roberto Corrada spoke on a panel devoted to “Professionalism & Balance: Academic and Personal Success.”
  • Margaret Kwoka participated in that day’s Mock AALS Interview panel.

At the Friday/Saturday Conference entitled “Legal Education in a Time of Change: Challenges & Opportunities”:

  • Roberto Corrada, Alexi Freeman, Rashmi Goel and Lindsey Webb described the formation of and the the many activities undertaken by RPL at Denver Law.
  • Beto Juárez contributed to a panel discussing “Curricular Innovations in a Time of Crisis: How to Move Law Schools to Embrace the Intercultural.”
  • Patience Crowder and Alexi Freeman led a panel devoted to “Lawyering for Social Justice Movements: How the Legal Academy Can Maximize Impact.”
  • César García Hernández and Chris Lasch’s panel discussed “Teaching Crimmigation Law.”
  • Randy Wagner and Susannah Pollvogt (law professor at Washburn University and RPL member) presented their ideas on “Progressive Pedagogy in a Box: Using the Multistate Performance Test as an Inclusive Teaching Tool” at the Progressive Marketplace of Ideas.

It was a busy and excellent three days for Denver Law, for RPL, for LatCrit and for SALT.


Margaret Kwoka Wins SALT Teaching Award

October 10, 2014

Margaret Kwoka, assistant professor at Denver Law, received the SALT Junior Faculty Teaching Award at the Society of American Law Teachers 2014 Teaching Conference. The award, given for the first time, honored Professor Kwoka as “an outstanding, recent entrant into the legal academy who demonstrates a commitment to justice, equality and academic excellence through teaching.”

SpearIt, Associate Professor at the Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, presented the award, offering these words:

“I served as the chair of the selection committee for this award and saw firsthand how our winner impressed the entire committee. For its very first selection for this award, the committee wanted to set a high bar wanted to set a high bar, and in doing so unanimously chose Professor Margaret Kwoka from the University of Denver.

“Professor Kwoka was selected from a pool of 12 strong nominations. To the committee her work embodied SALT’s commitment to teaching excellence, social justice, and diversity.

“She impressed the committee by demonstrating:

• a deep commitment to teaching social justice concepts, focusing on diversity and access to justice;
• strong support for students outside the classroom; and
• scholarship that aims to improve student education and further social justice teaching.

“Testimony to her approach in the classroom is found in these comments from a student:

Professor Kwoka did not show up, teach, and go home. She imbued even the most abstract and dry legal concepts with significance, showing her students that law does not exist in a vacuum, but, on the contrary, has great consequences upon individual lives’ and should be used as a tool to improve those lives.

“From another student came these words:

Civil Procedure certainly is not one of the glamour subjects of law school, but through the use of interactive exercises and small group discussions, Professor Kwoka conveyed the importance and significance of civil procedure in litigation. As a litigator, taking Professor Kwoka’s classes had an undeniable impact on the attorney I turned out to be.

“I could go on describing more about her. But I am here to say that SALT stands proud in awarding Professor Margaret Kwoka the First Annual Junior Faculty Teaching Award. Congratulations!”

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SpearIt (Thurgood Marshall School of Law), Olympia Duhart (Shepard Broad Law Center), Margaret Kwoka (Denver Law), and Ruben Garcia (UNLV Law)


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