Washington, D.C., June 3, 2009 - Ralph Nader, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, United States District Court judge Paul Friedman and CNN's Wolf Blitzer were among those honoring Theodore and Annette Lerner and the Lerner family Tuesday night at the Newseum for their significant contribution to advancing public interest and public service law at The George Washington University. GW Law School Dean Frederick Lawrence introduced the first Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest and Public Service Law at GW, Alan Morrison, a renowned Supreme Court litigator and co-founder with Nader of Public Citizen. The celebration was hosted by GW President Steven Knapp and Dean Lawrence and included distinguished members of the legal community from across DC. View Photo Gallery
A generous gift of $3 million from The Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation has endowed the associate dean position, which will build on GW Law School's expertise and reputation as a leader in public service and public interest law. Under the leadership of GW Law alumni Theodore N. Lerner (A.A. '48, L.L.B. '50), Robert K. Tanenbaum (J.D. '82), Marla Lerner Tanenbaum (J.D. '83), as well as Judy Lenkin Lerner and Mark D. Lerner (B.B.A. '75) and Edward L. and Debra Lerner Cohen, Lerner Enterprises has become the largest Washington, D.C.-area private real estate developer and is also the managing principal owner of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club.
President Knapp emphasized that this new deanship will not only benefit GW law students but also open an important chapter in the University's long history of leadership in public interest and public service. "Commitment to public service is a defining characteristic of our students and faculty and is what George Washington had in mind when he conceived this great national university more than 200 years ago," said President Knapp.
President Knapp noted that the Lerner's investment will further GW's strategic goal to elevate the role of public service as a University-wide priority, not only creating opportunities for public service engagement for GW law students but also providing a model for the University as a whole. Building on the Lerner's example, President Knapp reported that the University will launch this fall a Day of Service for all new students, a public service speakers series, a mapping project through the Department of Geography that will identify GW service activities across the city and a work study pilot program that will place 100 students in public sector workplaces. He also announced that GW is expanding Martin Luther King Day service activities and exploring the possibility of launching a full semester of service in 2011. Plans are underway to create an office of public service to coordinate activities across all GW schools, and eventually, he noted that GW may even move in the direction of creating a leadership and public service academy.
Alan Morrison teamed up with Ralph Nader in 1972 to found and direct the Public Citizen Litigation Group, the litigating arm of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Over the span of his career, Mr. Morrison has argued 20 cases before the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Morrison outlined ambitious goals for GW Law School, including instilling in students an appreciation of the value to themselves and the community of public interest and public service, giving students the training and opportunities they need to pursue public interest careers and lessening if not removing financial barriers. He announced his intent to run a project at GW Law School on election law reform, where students would engage with him side by side working on election reform projects. At the same time, he will teach a class on election law and one on civil procedure for first year students. He also discussed plans to improve the pro bono program at GW Law School and to work to strengthen a law designed to encourage students to pursue careers in public service. Alan Morrison summarized his vision: "What is my ultimate goal here? My ultimate goal is to hear two students, prospective law students, come together and one says to the other 'GW Law School' and the other one says, 'Oh that's the public interest law school."
Established in 1865 and located four blocks from the White House, The George Washington University Law School is the oldest law school in the District of Columbia. Accredited by the American Bar Association and a charter member of the Association of American Law Schools, the Law School enrolls approximately 2,000 students each year in its J.D. and LL.M. programs.