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Chief justice teaches law class, few know

By Brooke Garbisch
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday Feb. 8, 2002

Professors disagree on how public Rehnquist's class should be

Chief Justice of the United States William H. Rehnquist is wrapping up an annual class at the James E. Rogers College of Law today.

But outside the walls of the College of Law, not many people know about the course.

Kay Kavanagh, associate dean for academic affairs at the College of Law, said in an e-mail interview that Justice Rehnquist's visits are more publicized some years than others.

"The purpose of his visit is to teach a law school class and our goal is to provide an atmosphere that is consistent with other law school classes and that offers a minimum of interruption of that focus," Kavanagh said.

"It's wonderful to have a chief justice of the United States play a role at our law school," said James C. Mitchell, an assistant professor of journalism who teaches a media law course. "I think he honors his own Arizona roots and our law school by lecturing there."

Mitchell said in an e-mail interview that he is offended that the chief justice's classes are "held virtually in secret," pointing out that the University of Arizona is a public university and classes should be open to a "reasonable, manageable number of visitors."

"To close the classes is to cast the chief justice, the Supreme Court, the law school and the law itself as elitists - too good for us common folks," Mitchell said.

Andrew Silverman, professor of law, said there is no reason for anyone outside the law school to know about the chief justice's class, because only law students are eligible for it.

Robert Smith, a communication senior and potential law student, agreed.

"The fact that the chief justice is teaching a class at our law school shows me that it is a reputable school," he said.

Kavanagh said Rehnquist is very generous with his time during his visits and participates in a number of professional programs and events - mainly focused on the U.S. judicial system.

"The primary purpose of the chief justice's visit is not to participate in large public events," she said. "It is to teach a course at the College of Law, and we are extremely fortunate that he is willing to continue to offer the course at the college."

Rehnquist was first appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court as an associate justice by President Richard Nixon in 1972.

After serving 15 years, President Ronald Reagan appointed Rehnquist chief justice of the United States in 1986.

Before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Rehnquist was appointed assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel in the Department of Justice, by President Nixon in 1969.

The two-week course, titled "Supreme Court in the History of the U.S.," a one unit, pass or fail course, is primarily for second- and third-year law students.

Occasionally, students from other UA master's programs are able to enroll. Approximately 120 students are enrolled this semester. The course which began Jan. 28, ends today.

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