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Southwestern Law School
Southwestern Law School reflects the vibrancy of Los Angeles and provides an ideal setting for law study.
Southwestern Law School reflects the vibrancy of Los Angeles and provides an ideal setting for law study.

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Professor Roman Hoyos’ long-standing interest in 19th-century history informs his scholarship on the evolution of the democratic state.

In the mid-’90s, Professor Roman Hoyos spent a couple of years working for Senator Barbara Boxer. The budding historian had not yet entered law school, but working for California’s junior senator would serve as a proving ground for his interests in law and democracy.

“Initially, I worked in the mailroom in Boxer’s office,” Professor Hoyos recalls. “I was responsible for coding and distributing constituent correspondence. As I read through the letters, I remember thinking that one day, someone should do a study of constituent correspondence. I just didn’t realize it would be me.” 

Twenty years later, Professor Hoyos published an article in Law and History Review that did just that. Titled “The People’s Privilege: The Franking Privilege, Constituent Correspondence, and Political Representation in Mid-Nineteenth Century America,” his piece analyzes letters that constituents sent to Illinois senator and presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas in the mid-1800s. 

“People wrote to Douglas because they wanted things that the federal government was producing, mostly information,” Professor Hoyos says. “This correspondence is what historian John Brewer calls ‘a sinew of power.’ As a mode of representation, correspondence stimulated activity by the government, leading to the expansion of the federal state. If there are any lessons to be gained from this study, it is perhaps that modern democratization efforts should look for ways to build connections between representatives and constituents beyond and between elections.”

Professor Hoyos’ emphasis on the need to fortify these connections has a resounding timeliness today. In this era when lobbyists’ and big corporations’ influence on legislators often eclipses that of individuals, his research serves as a reminder that this wasn’t always the case.

In his scholarship, he returns again and again to 19th-century American history. “The 19th century is my ‘data,’ if you will, for exploring the history of democracy.” 

Professor Hoyos has written extensively about the Civil War, which he considers a major turning point in the history of democracy. In an essay in Signposts: New Directions in Southern Legal History, he argues that the decision of the slaveholding states to secede was a constitutional exercise of popular sovereignty. In his forthcoming book, The Rise and Fall of Popular Sovereignty: Constitutional Conventions, Law, and Democracy in Nineteenth-Century America, Professor Hoyos uses secession as the centerpiece for understanding the impact of popular sovereignty.

“The 19th century was America’s great period of democratization,” he says. “A great deal of energy was spent thinking about how to incorporate ordinary people into the governing process as well as actually incorporating them into that process. Today’s democracy builders need to think more about building and strengthening the sinews, not just oiling the joints.”

-From the Fall 2014 Issue of SW Law

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Professor Alan Calnan calls for a more balanced theory of civil justice.

The primary benefit of our tort system is that it gives plaintiffs “civilized recourse” against wrongdoers, says Professor Alan Calnan, for whom tort law is a deep-seated obsession. But that benefit comes with an underappreciated cost. Regardless of their merit, all tort actions inevitably cause financial damage, emotional upset, inconvenience, loss of privacy and relational strain to the parties being sued. In criminal cases, defendants are protected from such litigation harms, since the state cannot prosecute unless it first establishes probable cause of their guilt. In the civil justice system, Professor Calnan observes, defendants enjoy no such protection. “Unlike state prosecutors, civil plaintiffs need not substantiate their claims at the outset,” he says. “Instead, defendants must establish grounds to stop such actions from going forward.” 

According to Professor Calnan, this disparity raises two types of fairness concerns. Most obviously, the law places civil defendants at a strategic disadvantage. While a civil plaintiff generally pays her lawyer only if she prevails, the defendant incurs legal fees from the moment she retains counsel. Because the defense bears the burden of discrediting an action, the defendant often feels pressure to settle questionable claims just to avoid the accumulating costs of finding a viable escape route. 

On a deeper level, the current practice may threaten defendants’ constitutional right to due process. Historically, due process has been reserved primarily for criminal defendants facing arrest and prosecution. According to Professor Calnan, however, due process applies to any person significantly impacted by state action, including tort defendants subject to the compulsory procedures and enforcement mechanisms of the civil justice system. “While these defendants may not be guaranteed the same rights as criminal suspects,” he says, “they deserve at least preliminary proof that the claims against them are justified.” 

He presents this call for balance in his book, The Right to Civil Defensein Torts, published last year by Carolina Academic Press. The book builds upon his prodigious scholarship on tort theory, which has included three acclaimed books and numerous articles in top law journals. Given the book’s broad reach and practical significance, Professor Calnan believes it could have sweeping effects on our system of civil justice.

-From the Fall 2014 Issue of SW Law

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In his thoughtful new book, Professor Michael B. Dorff examines ways to address today’s skyrocketing executive compensation structures.

The mind-boggling rate at which CEO compensation has risen in recent decades has been a source of both scholarly fascination and real-world concern for Professor Michael B. Dorff. Consider this: According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2013 the average CEO compensation was $15.2 million, making the CEO-to-worker pay ratio 295.9-to-1.

How did this happen? And why has no one put the brakes on these skyrocketing pay packages? In his eye-opening new book, Indispensable and Other Myths: Why the CEO Pay Experiment Failed and How to Fix It (UC Press), Professor Dorff, a leading expert on corporate law, not only attempts to answer these questions but also offers solutions for reform.

The problem, he says, is that the prevailing model of CEO compensation is performance pay, which ties salaries of executives to their companies’ bottom line. Introduced in the late 1970s, performance pay has caused many dysfunctions in corporate governance, he says, including reduced board control of compensation structures and unnecessary distractions for CEOs. “You’d expect that performance pay would be an effective tool for improving corporate returns,” he says, “but that’s not the case. We have seen a sharp rise in CEO pay but not a proportional return on that investment.” 

One reason for this, he says, is that CEOs don’t usually need “extrinsic motivation,” like, well, huge piles of money, to do a good job. “CEOs in general are driven, intrinsically motivated people,” he explains. “It’s not necessary to dangle a carrot in front of them. Performance pay can shift their focus away from the tasks at hand and make them worry about the personal consequences and penalties of their actions rather than the mission of the company.” 

Professor Dorff’s recommendation to fix this broken system is to return to guaranteed salaries for CEOs, the model that predates performance pay. However, he acknowledges that there are many legal, tax-related and culturally ingrained obstacles to doing so. He therefore proposes a nuanced re-engineering of how performance pay is calibrated. “I’d like to see it tied to things that a CEO can actually influence, like employee retention,” he says, “as opposed to bottom-line earnings and share price, which are byproducts of myriad variables.”

Professor Dorff’s provocative analysis of one of the great conundrums of corporate governance is the result of nearly 10 years of research. He credits Southwestern with providing a supportive and stimulating environment, which helped bring Indispensable to fruition. “I could not have gotten through this process without the encouragement of my colleagues,” he says. And that support will no doubt be there when he embarks on his next equally timely project: a study of companies that seek to balance profit-making with serving the greater good.

-From the Fall 2014 Issue of SW Law

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As Associate Dean for Research, Gowri Ramachandran enjoys assisting her fellow scholars with their work while also pursuing her own inquiries into the legal treatment of dissenters.

In her new position as Associate Dean for Research, Gowri Ramachandran looks forward to providing a wide range of support to the faculty at Southwestern—from brainstorming ideas to helping with practical aspects of publishing. And she plans on using some of the law school’s unique strengths to do that.

“Part of scholarship is networking with others in your field,” she says. “Being a free-standing law school is a great benefit. You have more freedom to connect with people at other institutions, instead of just the one person in your area at your institution. I’m excited to help faculty members expand their networks.”

A member of the faculty since 2006, Dean Ramachandran also hopes to help her colleagues use their research to fuel the law school’s commitment to its students. “Scholarship can make you a much better teacher,” she says. “I want to support research, effective teaching, service to the institution and every faculty member’s ability to integrate these things.”

Had she followed her original path in college, Southwestern would have missed out on the energy and passion Dean Ramachandran brings to her role. While earning a B.A. in mathematics at Yale (where she later completed her J.D.) and an M.A. in statistics at Harvard, she was also an activist for LGBT rights. But at some point, she was searching for a way to integrate her political activism with her academic pursuits. “Law is an ideal field for integrating the two,” she says, “so I’m happy I made the switch.”

Her interest in anti-discrimination and human rights law led to her work on appearance discrimination, an area she found neglected by the courts as well as scholars when she began researching it a decade ago. “Some were writing on the topic, but not many, and almost nobody embraced the idea that tattoos, piercings and the like were worthy of legal scholarship,” she says. But she argued that appearance manipulation serves unique functions in society and thus requires unique legal protection. 

Dean Ramachandran’s articles have been published in the Yale Law Journal and the Connecticut, DePaul, Denver, Maryland, Penn State and Seattle law reviews, among others. She is currently researching how and why groups, such as religious organizations, families and corporations, differ in protecting an individual’s right to dissent. “I don’t think that anybody has ever identified a principled reason for the different treatment of different groups by courts, statutes and other sources of law,” she says. “There are probably good reasons to treat some of these groups differently from each other, but they haven’t been identified.”

She is also planning a larger project that will combine law and anthropology to probe the concept that being open to internal dissent actually protects and strengthens a culture rather than rupturing it. “As we are faced with seismic shifts like environmental change, we want to be adaptable,” Dean Ramachandran says. “A society where people dissent and have diverse lifestyles is better able to make big changes when it needs to.”

-From the Fall 2014 Issue of SW Law

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Judge David Wesley ’72 is committed to ensuring the health of L.A.’s court system—and keeping local youth on the right side of it.

For four decades, the Hon. David Wesley ’72 has led an exemplary career as a public defender, attorney in private practice, commissioner and judge. Now, as the new Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, he oversees the largest trial court system in the United States. His biggest challenge in this position is dealing with the impact of the economic downturn. “My No. 1 goal is to keep the courts open,” he says. “Our budget has been cut 30 percent over the past four years, while our case load remains consistent or is rising.”

Following 10 years in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, Judge Wesley was appointed to the bench in 1993 as a Hearing Judge for the California State Bar Court. Two years later, he became a Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner assigned to Juvenile Court. In 1997, Governor Pete Wilson elevated him to a Superior Court judgeship. Although pleased with the promotion, it was difficult for him to leave Juvenile Court. “I loved practicing there,” he says. “I felt like we were making a real difference in these kids’ lives.” 

In fact, Judge Wesley’s love of juvenile law inspired him, along with fellow Southwestern graduate Judge Jaime Corral ’70, to establish one of the first Teen Court programs in Los Angeles. Through this innovative program, misdemeanor cases involving minors are taken out of the Criminal Court system and heard by a jury of high school students. The goal is to reduce recidivism and allow student defendants and jurors to experience the judicial process firsthand. 
Judge Wesley also helped bring Teen Court to Southwestern. “We get law students involved in working with high school kids,” Judge Wesley says, “which is wonderful.” 

Judge Wesley has been recognized for judicial excellence by the city and county of Los Angeles, the Criminal Courts Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Judicial Council of California. In 2007, Judge Wesley was honored as Southwestern’s Outstanding Judicial Officer.

-From the Spring 2013 Issue of SW Law

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Chief Administrative Law Judge Debra Bice ’80 oversees the operation of every Social Security hearing office in the United States.

The Hon. Debra Bice ’80 had planned to become a social worker until a college professor’s fateful suggestion set her on the path to law school and a groundbreaking career. After decades working in the federal government, Judge Bice was recently named Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration, becoming the first woman to hold that office and 
adding her name to the long list of firsts in Southwestern’s legacy. 

Judge Bice is responsible for the operation of every Social Security hearing office in the country. That’s 162 hearing offices, seven satellite offices and five national hearing centers, to be exact—not to mention the approximately 1,500 administrative law judges who fill those offices. With more than 800,000 cases pending, and claimants sometimes waiting a year or more for their case to be heard, Judge Bice faces a difficult task. “Doing a quality job in a timely manner is the biggest challenge,” she says. “You can write the best decision, but if it takes two years to get it out, that doesn’t help the claimant who has no income and may be losing a house or is in need of medical care.” 

In a Social Security hearing, judges preside over cases in which people often contest a denial of disability benefits. These proceedings are nonadversarial, so judges must ensure the record is fully developed and question the witnesses, in addition to rendering the decision in the case. Judge Bice says Southwestern’s trial advocacy class helped prepare her well to question doctors, experts, claimants and other witnesses. “The hearings were the best part of the job,” she reminisces, “talking to claimants, asking them questions to better understand how their impairments affected them in their day-to-day functioning.”

Now, as Chief Judge, Bice travels around the country to different offices to meet with judges. The visits help her identify the issues confronting judges, and she uses that information to make the whole hearing process run smoothly. She also hires judges and deals with judicial conduct. In addition, Judge Bice’s office receives questions about complex agency regulations, policies and procedures. She established a continuing education program and promotes the use of technology to provide judges with easily accessible feedback on their decisions from the Social Security Appeals Council. 

With all she has accomplished as chief judge, what she misses most is an ongoing caseload, but she is trying to work hearings back into her busy schedule. “It keeps you aware of the new issues,” she says. “One of the things we try to keep foremost in our minds is not only the mission of Social Security, which is to conduct timely  and legally sufficient hearings and decisions, but also that these are people we’re talking about—not just numbers, not just cases.”

-From the Spring 2013 Issue of SW Law

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Colorado Judge Edward Moss ’76 is a standard bearer for ethical conduct in the judiciary.

For more than 35 years, Judge Edward Moss ’76 has enjoyed a distinguished career in private practice and public service. As a lawyer, he worked primarily in the areas of oil and gas, real estate and commercial litigation. Before being appointed to the bench in 2004, Judge Moss served on the Westminster, Colorado, city council and served for four years as the city’s mayor.

His first exposure to the judiciary began while he was a student at Southwestern. On the advice of two professors, he applied for an internship with the United States Supreme Court, where he worked in the office of Chief Justice Warren Burger. While working in Washington, D.C., one of his colleagues took note of his interest in the history of the Supreme Court building and asked him to lead tours. One of these tours—for the wife of a federal judge from Denver—led to Judge Moss’ first job after graduating from Southwestern. Introduced to Judge Sherman Finesilver by his wife, Judge Moss landed a clerkship with him. “I took the California Bar exam, but I knew I wanted to practice in Colorado,” he says.

Now serving as a judge in Colorado’s 17th Judicial District, Judge Moss enjoys his relationship with his peers. “This district is a gem,” he says. “If someone is double set for trials, we fill in for each other. I carpool to work with other judges. It’s very collegial and gives us extra time to talk about legal issues.” 

Judge Moss also relishes the more scholarly aspects of being a judicial officer. “As a judge, you have the time to research an issue to its end. In private practice there are different realities.” Although he currently works in the Civil Division, Judge Moss has presided over criminal, domestic relations and mental health cases. His next rotation will be in the juvenile division. 

With a longstanding interest in legal and judicial ethics, Judge Moss has served on the Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee for 21 years and writes an ethics newsletter for the Colorado judiciary. He serves as a member of the National Advisory Council of the American Judicature Society and the Advisory Committee of the Hunter Center for Judicial Ethics. Because we are in a profession where we supervise our own ethical conduct,” he says, “we have an obligation to do that appropriately and effectively.”

-From the Spring 2013 Issue of SW Law

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Tara Flanagan ’98 is approaching her judgeship with the same qualities she has brought to all her endeavors: enthusiasm, determination and compassion. 

As a former competitive athlete and lifelong scholar, the Hon. Tara Flanagan ’98 understands the importance of creating one’s own opportunities. Her work ethic and leadership helped her win a three-way race for Superior Court Judge in Alameda County, where she began serving in January. 

One of seven children raised by a single mom in the Bay Area, Judge Flanagan earned a basketball scholarship to California State University, Northridge. She also received a scholarship to attend a women’s leadership conference in Washington, D.C. “I met a lot of powerful women who were trailblazers, politicians, leaders—and many were attorneys,” she says. “I thought, ‘I need to do this. I need to get into law.’ ” 

However, before dedicating herself to the law, Judge Flanagan wanted to fulfill her passion for sports. She made it onto the USA Women’s Rugby National Team, which won the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991. The London Times named her co-MVP of the tournament. 

When her sports career ended, she joined Cotkin & Collins as a paralegal and decided to attend law school at night. “Southwestern has a great reputation. I thought it would be the best place for me, and I was right,” she says. “The school has similar core values to the ones I was raised with: self-reliance and hard work.” 

Judge Flanagan spent three of her four years at Southwestern serving as Evening Class President. She participated in Moot Court and the LGBT student organization (now called Outlaw). 

With her eye on someday reaching the bench, she began carefully choreographing her career, starting as a litigation associate at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP. In 2000, she joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, where she was named an Outstanding Domestic Violence Prosecutor in her first year. After returning to the Bay Area, she joined the Family Violence Law Center in Alameda County, representing domestic violence survivors and their children. Today, she is recognized as a national expert in legal issues related to domestic violence within the LGBT community.

“This has been my life’s ambition,” Judge Flanagan says of her new post. “I believe in service above self, and being a judge is the epitome of that. The court needs greater diversity—more women and LGBT judges—and I thought that as a judge, I can have a real impact.”  

Judge Flanagan credits Southwestern with helping her achieve her goals: “I’ve always been appreciative of my law school for preparing me to be a good attorney, and ultimately, for the bench.”

-From the Spring 2013 Issue of SW Law

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Judge Paul Stark ’75 is passionate about strengthening the justice system in his beloved Israel.

“You have to maintain your objectivity and patience, and you can never forget your humanity.” 

These are what Judge Paul Stark ’75 considers to be the characteristics all good judges in the world should live up to, regardless of whether they are working in the court systems of the United States or halfway across the world in the Middle East.

For almost 40 years, Judge Stark has experienced both legal systems firsthand. After passing the California bar in 1975, Judge Stark moved to Israel, where he worked as a clerk in the Legal Aid Office in Jerusalem. After passing the Israeli bar in 1978, he joined the Jerusalem Legal Aid Office as a staff attorney. 

In 1979, Judge Stark returned to the United States to work in the Orange County Public Defender’s Office. Eventually, he was appointed to manage the Public Defender’s staff in Central Orange County Court, and he used this opportunity to inspire others.  “The philosophy was to defend to the best of your ability,” Judge Stark explains. “When I became a supervising attorney, I had the pleasure of imparting these same values to those under my charge.” 

Judge Stark spent the next eight years as a criminal defense attorney, working on the cutting edge of DNA evidence. In 1994, Judge Stark returned to Israel and headed the same Legal Aid Department where he had clerked 15 years earlier. But Judge Stark knew he could be of even more service as a judge, and thus began the lengthy process to earn confirmation to the bench. 

In 2005, Judge Stark was appointed to the Family Law Court in Ramat Gan, a city near Tel Aviv.  Six years later, he joined the Magistrate Court in Jerusalem, where one of the key matters he presides over is cases alleging building violations. In a country such as Israel, this has potential international impact and reverberations, given the diverse Arab and Jewish populations that it affects. 

His vast experience in courtrooms from Southern California to Jerusalem has well prepared Judge Stark for his role on the bench. “What I wanted to accomplish as an advocate has been done,” he says. “Now, with the Magistrate Court, I can be influential and helpful in a greater capacity.”

-From the Spring 2013 Issue of SW Law

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A Keeper of the Civil Rights Flame
Judge Monica Benton ’80 has forged a successful career as a prosecutor and judicial officer with inspiration from civil rights leaders.
Twelve years ago, the Hon. Monica Benton ’80 joined the ranks of Southwestern’s many trailblazing alumni when she became the first African-American woman to serve as a U.S. magistrate judge for the Western District of the state of Washington, the same court in which she began her legal career as a law clerk to the Hon. Jack E. Tanner. An active student at Southwestern, Judge Benton met Judge Tanner while working in student government as Minority Affairs Commissioner. In fact, such student development is what Judge Benton remembers most fondly about her law school years.
“It is incumbent upon the law school to bring leaders and motivators to the students, which is exactly what South-western did,” Judge Benton says. She remembers “literally rubbing elbows” with legal greats in civil rights such as Constance Baker Motley, A. Leon Higginbotham and Lawrence Tribe and was also deeply inspired by her Civil Procedure instructor, Professor Anita Glasco.
Prior to her first judgeship in 1995, Judge Benton was a prosecutor for King County and a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. She also spent a short time as a lobbyist for the National District Attorneys Association and helped shape the protocol for child abuse prosecution on a national level.
Judge Benton served on the federal bench from 2000 to 2008. Due to heightened sensitivities surrounding terrorism, some of her highest-profile cases arose out of the passage of the Patriot Act. After her federal term ended, Judge Benton became a trial judge in Washington’s King County Superior Court, where she hears everything from criminal offenses to multimillion-dollar lawsuits. “You face new issues each week,” she says, “which keeps you fresh.”
In her spare time, Judge Benton pursues her lifelong interest in civil rights. She has established a civil rights library, which includes works by leaders such as Andrew Jackson Young and Fred Gray, as well as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” She often speaks at civil rights engagements and, in so doing, passes inspiration along to the next generation of aspiring attorneys.
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