Alumni News

Abramson Chosen for Kentucky Supreme Court

Kentucky Appellate Court Judge Lisabeth Hughes Abramson has been selected by Governor Ernie Fletcher to take the place of the late Justice William McAnulty on the state's Supreme Court. Abramson will be sworn in on Monday, September 10, 2007.

Abramson earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Louisville, graduating in 1977 with highest honors. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Louisville School of Law in 1980 and was named the Outstanding Graduate of her law school class. Before serving as a judge, she practiced law for 15 years, concentrating on business and commercial litigation.

Announcing the Dean's Athletic Circle

The University of Louisville School of Law hereby announces the Dean's Athletic Circle. The DAC will endeavor to stage events that unite the Law School and the rest of the Cardinal Nation behind our mutual love of sports in general and UofL athletics in particular.

In a very real sense, two exciting events will kick off the Dean's Athletic Circle this weekend:

  1. Law School softball: Saturday, Sept. 8, 4 p.m. A team of wily "veterans" -- featuring upper-division students, the Dean, faculty, and staff -- will take on a "rookie" team of first-year law students at Churchill Park Softball Field. Spectators are welcome.
  2. UofL Women's Soccer vs. Butler University: Sunday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m. This Sunday's match against Butler is the Law School's special day with the University of Louisville's women's soccer team. The match will take place at Cardinal Park. Dean Jim Chen will perform the ceremonial first kick. Students, graduates, and friends of the Law School are encouraged to support our Cardinals in force. Special thanks to Coach Karen Ferguson for this opportunity to unite the Law School community in support of UofL women's soccer.
    Students, staff, faculty and alumni are invited to attend the game for free. Please print out the coupon below and present it at the gate:

Crossing the River, an Essay

Crossing the River

I've known rivers
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"

Langston HughesHughes album

When I left the University of Minnesota in January to join the University of Louisville as the dean of its law school, I crossed two rivers. To be precise, I crossed two branches of the mightiest river system in North America: the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and Saint Paul and the Ohio River from Indiana into Kentucky.

These cities exist because they lie at the fall lines of the Mississippi and the Ohio. As a native of our larger region, I am at once blessed and haunted by the geographic awareness that comes with the sense of place unique to the American South. For generations the Falls of the Ohio dictated Louisville's destiny. To this day, high ground and flood plain define neighborhoods in our community. Lewis and Clark understood the Falls as the gateway to the west. The industries that built Louisville and Kentucky in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries exploited the power of falling water.


Legal education is a metaphorical river crossing in its own right. The decision to attend law school, irrespective of age or personal circumstances, defines a crucial point of transition in the life and career of any student. For younger students, only recently graduated from college, coming to law school at the University of Louisville represents a commitment to a profession, to an electrifying way of thinking and of doing that distinguishes those of us privileged to have been trained in the law. Likewise, students seeking a change in their career trajectories will find in law school the opportunity to revitalize their professional lives.


The University of Louisville proudly provides all of its students with the training and the opportunity to transform themselves. We at the law school, like all of our colleagues throughout this university, are dedicated to the higher training and useful education of our aspiriing youth. The diverse experiences that our students bring to law school matters enormously. Their hopes, their futures, their destinies matter even more.

Our law school, like the community that sustains it and the students and constituents it serves, has grown deep like the rivers. It is the calling of a lifetime to serve this school, this university, and this community. I am profoundly honored to serve as the dean of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.


Jim Chen

Introducing the Docket Passer

Law School Dean Jim Chen, a devoted football fan, has launched "The Docket Passer," a blog dedicated to football, Louisville and the study of law. The first installment of this multi-media blog can be viewed here:

Interning in Rwanda: A 2L’s Story

In June 2007, Louisville Law student Becca O'Neill traveled to Rwanda to serve as an intern for the National Service of Gacaca Courts in Kigali, Rwanda. Her internship was funded in part by a grant from the Student Bar Foundation.

Rwanda's Gacaca court system was launched in 2001 to expedite the trials of over 100,000 genocide suspects in the country's prisons at that time. This court system was named after and based on a traditional practice of community hearings used to resolve local disputes. However, the new process merges the customary system with a more formal--Western--court structure. The Gacaca tribunals are legally established judicial bodies, and judges of these courts can impose sentences as high as life imprisonment.

O'Neill had worked as a grant writer for human rights organization in Rwanda following completion of her undergraduate studies in social work. Following this experience, O'Neill began her career in social work in earnest, working in the legal arena as a social worker in Brooklyn, N.Y. O'Neill's experiences in both Rwanda and in Brooklyn pulled her inexorably toward a degree in law as she realized that her dedication to social justice could best be realized through a legal education.

O'Neill entered the University of Louisville's Law School in 2006. The law school's emphasis on and support of public service allowed O'Neill to propose an internship in Rwanda's Gacaca courts as a means of meeting the service requirement. In June 2006, she began her work at the National Service of Gacaca Courts in Kigali, Rwanda--one of two interns, the other also an American law student. She and O'Neill were the first U.S. interns permitted to work in the Gacaca system.

O'Neill served in Gacaca's Legal Support Unit, which responds to any complaints and concerns that Gacaca is not functioning properly. Complaints come from both Rwandese civilians and international organizations. The organization works with both prisons and survivor organizations to oversee and improve Gacaca.

As an intern, O'Neill was charged with three key tasks:

  • First, O'Neill learned as much as possible about Gacaca and, she explains, "acted as an ‘ambassador' for Gacaca--someone from the outside who could learn first hand how the system functioned and spread that information to legal communities in the US."
  • Second, O'Neill read and reviewed a series of reports that came from different international organizations and evaluated various phases of Gacaca. O'Neill explained, "I was given several reports each week to read and assess. I then presented my assessments to my supervisors, who in turn decided which aspects of the reports to address with international donors and aid organizations."
  • Finally, O'Neill wrote a series of reports that focused on the successes and failures of Gacaca. O'Neill explains that she was asked to "view Gacaca through the lens of international standards of fair trial. I was also encouraged to speak to survivors and perpetrators alike in an effort to understand the unique situation Rwanda faces."

Law School Supports LBA Annual Golf Scramble

Each year the Louisville Bar Association hosts a golf scramble. Proceeds from the scramble provide funds for the UofL School of Law's Public Service Program, the Jefferson County Public Law Library, and a scholarship for a minority law student. This year's scramble was held at Valhalla Golf Course on August 20.

Thanks to Jim Chen, Don Olson, Wally Oyler, and Larry Ethridge for participating in the Scramble. The team brought glory to the school by winning first place in the 3rd Flight of the tournament. Thanks to Susan Kosse, and her family for sponsoring a foursome at the tournament. In addition, we had excellent volunteers - Jerie Torbeck, Jina Scinta and Bob Micou. Finally, thanks to Laura Rothstein and Jim Chen for donating gifts for the Scramble.

Louisville Community Mourns the Loss of Justice McAnulty

The Louisville legal community was saddened to learn of the passing of Justice William E. McAnulty on August 23. The University of Louisville Law School will observe a moment of silence at noon today, August 24, to remember Justice McAnulty.

McAnulty, a graduate of Louisville's law school, was the first African American to serve on Kentucky's Supreme Court. Justice McAnulty has served at all four levels of the state court system and started his judicial career as a Jefferson County Juvenile Court judge in 1975. He was elected to Jefferson District Court in November 1977, where he served until his election to Jefferson Circuit Court in November 1983. He briefly returned to private practice in January 1990 as a partner in a law firm and then returned to the Circuit Court in 1993. In 1998, he served as chief judge of the Jefferson Circuit Court until he was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in November 1998 to represent the 4th Appellate District. He came to the Supreme Court from the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 2006.