Criminal Justice Practice and Policy Institute

Open Letter to Students from WCL Faculty and Staff
Concerning the Killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner

The recent police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner followed by the failure of the grand jury processes in Ferguson and New York City to return indictments weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of many students, faculty, staff and alumni of the American University Washington College of Law (“WCL”). We know some of you question how the criminal justice system can produce such violence without accountability and question the state of race relations in America. As members of the faculty and staff of WCL, we want you to reflect upon the role of lawyers as advocates in our legal system; to think beyond your own understanding of the world; and to consider the values of your clients and the communities you will serve. The Brown and Garner cases are two of many painful reminders that we must fight to achieve the values of fundamental fairness, human rights, and social equality for all. The disconnect between law and justice is too stark to ignore, particularly in our deeply flawed and racially biased criminal justice system. As lawyers and members of a law school community advancing social justice, we must all work to close this gap.

We applaud the efforts by students, engaged communities, and leaders around the country who seek to change the nature of the relationships between black and brown communities and police. We know that silence in the face of racial injustice is not the answer, despite how difficult, complicated, overwhelming or uneasy the conversations and issues may be. Many of you joined hundreds of other members of the WCL community in the enlightening, and sometimes deeply moving, open forum put on by the WCL faculty and staff the day immediately following the Ferguson grand jury’s verdict. We want to assure you that the inclusive community conversation will not end there. We will facilitate further discussions among students and the law school community. These discussions and events will seek not only to educate but to propose and facilitate meaningful reforms to improve the criminal justice system and race relations in America. We encourage you to participate as you continue to think through these difficult issues and how they relate to your experience as law students and future attorneys.

This statement reflects our views as individuals and is not an official statement of American University Washington College of Law or American University. Our titles and affiliations are offered only for identification purposes.

  • David E. Aaronson, Professor of Law; Director, Trial Advocacy and Advocacy LL.M. Programs
  • Nancy Abramowitz, Professor of Practice
  • Padideh Ala'i, Professor of Law
  • Khadijah Al-Amin-El, Interim Director, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Jonas Anderson, Associate Professor of Law
  • Philip C. Andonian, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Vanessa Anthony, Admissions Counselor, Office of Career & Professional Development
  • Rebecca Kelly Arnold, Adjunct Professor; Program Coordinator, Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project
  • Peter F. Asaad, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Marie-Eve G. Augier, Program Coordinator, Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
  • Susan Bennett, Professor of Law; Director, Community & Economic Development Law Clinic
  • Claudia C. Blount, Program Assistant, Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
  • Elizabeth M. Boles, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Brandon Butler, Practitioner in Residence, Glushko Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic
  • Susan Carle, Professor of Law
  • Michael W. Carroll, Professor of Law; Director, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property
  • Janie Chuang, Professor of Law
  • Edward Correia, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Angela J. Davis, Professor of Law
  • Melissa C. del Aguila, Assistant Director, Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law
  • Robert D. Dinerstein, Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Experiential Education
  • Dolores Dorsainvil, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • N. Jeremi Duru, Professor of Law
  • Kate Sablosky Elengold, Practitioner-in-Residence, Women and the Law Clinic
  • Lia Epperson, Professor of Law, Associate Dean of Faculty & Academic Affairs
  • Norman L. Eule, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Franki Fitterer, Director, Public Relations
  • Gregory W. Gardner, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Robert Kogod Goldman, Professor of Law, Louis C. James Scholar
  • Kathleen Gordon, Associate Director, Clinical Program
  • Rachel Gordon, Research Specialist, Global Opportunities
  • Chris Gowen, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Llezlie Green Coleman, Assistant Professor of Law
  • Claudio Grossman, Dean, Raymond Geraldson Scholar for International and Humanitarian Law
  • Lewis A Grossman, Professor of Law
  • Hadar Harris, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law
  • Jasmine E. Harris, Practitioner-in-Residence
  • John Quentin Heywood, Associate Law Librarian, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • David Hunter, Professor of Law
  • David Jaffe, Associate Dean for Student Affairs
  • Cynthia Jones, Associate Professor of Law
  • Tanya M. Jones Bosier, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Billie Jo Kaufman, Associate Dean, Professor of Law
  • David I. Kempler, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Candace Kovacic-Fleischer, Professor of Law, Emerita
  • Aryan Kushan, Training Manager, Professorial Lecturer in Law
  • Amanda Leiter, Associate Professor of Law
  • Jeffrey S. Lubbers, Professor of Practice of Administrative Law
  • Daniel Marcus, Fellow in Law & Government
  • Claudia Martin, Co-Director, Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
  • James May, Professor of Law
  • Sandra F. McLetchie, Faculty and Administrative Support Services
  • Juan E. Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence
  • Binny Miller, Professor of Law; Co-Director, Criminal Justice Clinic
  • Elliott S. Milstein, Professor of Law
  • Amy Myers, Practitioner-in-Residence
  • Elisabeth R. Myers, Adjunct Associate Professor of Law; Principal, Myers Energy International
  • Andra Nicolescu, Researcher, Anti-Torture Initiative, Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law
  • Ingrid Nifosi-Sutton, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Diane Orentlicher, Professor of Law
  • Sunita Patel, Practitioner-In-Residence, Civil Advocacy Clinic
  • Teresa Godwin Phelps, Professor of Law; Director, Legal Rhetoric Program
  • Nancy D. Polikoff, Professor of Law
  • Melanija Radnovic, Adjunct Professor; Assistant Director, International Career Programs
  • Jamin Raskin, Professor of Law; Director, Law and Government Program
  • Jayesh Rathod, Associate Professor of Law; Director, Immigrant Justice Clinic
  • Ira P. Robbins, Barnard T. Welsh Scholar and Professor of Law
  • Jenny Roberts, Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Scholarship; Co-Director, Criminal Justice Clinic
  • Diego Rodríguez-Pinzón, Professorial Lecturer in Residence; Co-Director, Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
  • Darren Rosenblum, Visiting Professor of Law
  • Ezra Rosser, Professor of Law
  • Susana SáCouto, Professorial Lecturer-in-Residence; Director, War Crimes Research Office
  • Macarena Saez, Fellow in International Legal Studies; Faculty Director, Impact Litigation Project
  • Avis Sanders, Director, Externship Program
  • Herman Schwartz, Professor of Law
  • Laura M. Scott, Assistant Director, Public Service Careers, Office of Career & Professional Development
  • Chai Shenoy, Adjunct Professor, Domestic Violence Seminar, WCL Alum ('05)
  • Jasmeet Sidhu, Assistant Director, Office of Public Interest
  • Brenda V. Smith, Professor of Law, Community and Economic Development Law Clinic; Director, Project on Addressing Prison Rape
  • Megan Smith Goodman, Assistant Director, Public Relations
  • William Snape, Director of Adjunct Faculty Development, Fellow in Environmental Law
  • Robert H. Solomon, Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Shana Tabak, Practitioner-In-Residence, International Human Rights Law Clinic
  • Amy Tenney, Associate Director, Program on Law & Government; Adjunct Professor of Law
  • Christian Tintle, Senior Administrative Assistant, Office of Career & Professional Development
  • Tony Varona, Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs
  • Sherry Weaver, Director, Office of Diversity Services
  • Diane Weinroth, Clinical Supervisor
  • Jamie R. Welling, Assistant Director, Office of Global Opportunities
  • Lindsay Wiley, Associate Professor of Law
  • Emma Wimmer, Alumni Relations Coordinator
  • William Yeomans, Fellow in Law and Government

Members of the press with inquiries about this statement may contact Franki Fitterer. Any members of the American University Washington College of Law faculty and staff who wish to add their names to the letter can email garnerbrownwcl@wcl.american.edu. The page will be updated periodically.

November 25, 2014
Ferguson Open Forum


The Criminal Justice Practice and Policy Institute at American University Washington College of Law seeks to study and improve the practice of criminal law and justice.

Much of the work of the Institute is aimed at law reform, whether changing the law on the books or altering the policies and behaviors that impact the criminal justice system.

Practice broadly includes the on-the-ground efforts of all criminal justice system participants – police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, legislators, lobbyists, non-governmental institutions, and grassroots change agents who work domestically or internationally, locally or federally. Their work may involve street crime, white collar crime, terrorism, international criminal justice institutions, or public corruption. Understanding how they operate and how they can do better is necessarily an interdisciplinary project. Therefore, the Institute promotes research involving social scientists, neuroscientists, and humanists, as well as law professors.

Public support is also needed to accomplish certain changes in the justice system, yet the public is too often misguided about the nature of the criminal justice system. The Institute will reach out to media outlets, high schools, colleges, and citizens’ groups in an effort to better inform the public.

Three values guide the Institute's work:

  • Encouraging effective voice by everyone with a stake in the system.
  • Fostering individual and inter-group equality.
  • Promoting systemic accuracy and procedural rights.

For more information about the Institute, please contact Professor Ira Robbins: robbins@wcl.american.edu.