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White House lawyer joins UA attorneys

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 17, 1998
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Lawyers in the UA Attorney's Office are looking forward to working with their newly appointed director, White House attorney Judith Leonard, staff members said yesterday.

UA attorney Michael Proctor said his office is excited that the University of Arizona selected Leonard as the new general counsel.

"She has a real broad range of experience," Proctor said. "I think we (the UA attorneys) are all really looking forward to working with her."

Leonard is acting general counsel of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy - a legal adviser to White House Drug Czar Barry McCaffery.

She will leave the post in October to head the nine-member UA attorney team.

She is succeeding Jacqueline Schneider, who stepped down in November after nearly seven years with the UA. Schneider left to marry her college sweetheart and has since moved to San Antonio, Texas.

Leonard was chosen from a pool of more than 100 candidates, said Joel Valdez, UA senior vice president for business affairs.

"All her experience indicated she would perform well," said Valdez, who chaired the committee in charge of screening applicants for the position.

Valdez said his committee narrowed the pool to four applicants, including UA attorney Thomas Thompson. Thompson could not be reached yesterday for comment.

UA President Peter Likins then chose Leonard from the short list.

"She's the best of the best," Valdez said.

In addition to her work for the White House, Leonard served as legal counsel to the U.S. Department of Education from 1980 to 83. She earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina in 1980.

Leonard, who holds a master's degree in education, also gained experience working on university-related legal issues during a seven-year stint as associate general counsel for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also served as assistant to the dean of UNC-Chapel Hill's medical school.

After leaving North Carolina in 1990, Leonard worked for the Arizona Attorney General's Office for one year. Her duties included litigating civil and administrative health care matters.

Leonard returned to the U.S. Department of Education in 1991, where she served as an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel.

She has held her position with the White House since July 1997.

Proctor said he was sure there would be no shortage of things for Leonard to do when she arrives at the UA.

"We have tons of stuff coming in," he said. "This is a really active office."

In addition to supervising all other UA lawyers and their staff, Leonard will work directly under Likins as a member of the university's senior management team.

She will be responsible for managing and supervising all litigation concerning the UA and is expected to advise Likins and other senior administrators on legal issues affecting the university, its relationship to the community and its compliance with all federal and state laws and regulations.

Leonard is probably going to earn considerably less at the UA than she would if she were to go into private practice, Proctor said.

"I know I am," he said.

Proctor said the varied caseload and university atmosphere were what motivated him to choose his UA position.

"The key benefit is variety - the variety is incredible," he said. "In private practice you get very specialized."

Proctor said he enjoys coming to work at the UA.

"For all the things people say about this place - it's a pretty damn cool place to work," he said.

Michael Lafleur can be reached via e-mail at Michael.Lafleur@wildcat.arizona.edu.