Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned an A.B. in government from Harvard and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. I am currently an associate professor in the School of Law teaching both doctrinal and clinical classes.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I joined the faculty in 2004 after serving as an assistant federal public defender in the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Washington, D.C. I decided to accept the position here because when I visited, I really loved the students and faculty. I think we have wonderful students. I also think they get a great and affordable legal education here, and that makes me feel good about teaching here.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I love the process of teaching and guiding my students as they become lawyers, so the classes I most like teaching are those in which I can watch my students find their voices as lawyers. “Evidence,” which teaches upper-level students the rules of trial, and “Criminal Law,” a first-year class, give me a great opportunity to watch that growth, so I love teaching both. My other absolute favorite class is the yearlong “Appellate Litigation Clinic.” The clinic is a really small class, and my students and I together represent clients before federal appellate courts. My students work incredibly hard in the class, and as a result I get to know them really well and am so proud when they become lawyers.
What interests you about your field?
I think lawyers have tremendous capacity to help people. The criminal justice system—my area of specialty—has an enormous impact on the lives of those who come in contact with it, and I think their stories and experiences can be very compelling.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Getting the Appellate Litigation Clinic started has been incredibly rewarding, in large part because I have such a close mentor relationship with those students. The other highlight is from the academic side. It has been really important to me that my scholarship be relevant to the practice of law, and my first article—about criminal defendants charged with felonies who choose to represent themselves—was cited by the United States Supreme Court in its decision upholding the constitutional right of self-representation.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
More than anything else, I think my experience in practice as a lawyer inspires both my research and my teaching. I really want my students to be the best lawyers they possibly can be, and I draw on my experience as a lawyer in guiding them. My scholarship also is heavily influenced by the problems I saw in practice. Because my teaching now involves some practice (through the clinic), that also lends itself to finding new issues to research.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I really want my students to learn the skills necessary for being a good lawyer: the willingness to work hard; the creativity to find new and different ways of approaching legal problems; the ability to communicate legal concepts to non-lawyers in an understandable way; the empathy to understand the importance of legal issues to clients; and the moral compass to understand the right thing to do.
Describe your ideal student.
Curious, hard working, creative, nice and empathetic.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I spend most of my on-campus time in my office, which I would not necessarily characterize as my favorite place to be. When my daughter comes to campus with me, I love watching her chase squirrels and chipmunks on North Campus (she has yet to catch one).
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Spend time with my daughter and run.
Community/civic involvement includes….
I have worked extensively with public defenders in the state—both those working in the federal system and those in the state system. I have been on the board of directors for a federal defender office based in Macon, Ga., for a number of years, and I also have done trainings for public defenders throughout the state.
My daughter and I just finished reading E.B. White’s “Trumpet of the Swan.” I had forgotten how much I love the book, which tells the story of a trumpeter swan named Louis who is born without a voice but learns to play the trumpet. Of course, E.B. White uses language beautifully, and this book in particular has a wonderful gentleness to the plot. So I would say it is my current favorite.
Proudest moment at UGA?
I won the School of Law’s faculty teaching award, the C. Ronald Ellington Award for Excellence in Teaching, last year. The other proudest moment probably was when the Supreme Court discussed at oral argument and then cited my article.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I feel really lucky to have ended up here. My colleagues have been incredibly supportive both with helping me learn to teach and with helping me become a scholar.
(Originally published on April 7, 2013)