The Connective Web of AUWCL Alumni, Adjuncts, and Practitioners

By William J. Snape, III, Assistant Dean for Adjunct Faculty Affairs

July 10, 2019

When American University Washington College of Law decided to offer a section of U.S. Criminal Law to foreign LL.M. students in fall 2012, the Office of Academic Affairs turned to AUWCL alum Ben Miller ’05, who was then working for the Maryland Public Defenders Office. Over the past seven years, Miller has done an outstanding job an adjunct professor in this role, but is now moving to Utah where he will continue working as a senior counsel at The Justice Collaborative, an organization that pushes prosecutors and lawmakers to adopt policies to combat the mass incarceration crisis. 

Fortunately for AUWCL, we’ve found another alum, Tracee Plowell ’98, to take over for Miller. Plowell presently works as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, and specializes in white-collar prosecution—particularly relating to securities and other financial fraud cases. I recently met with both Miller and Plowell to prepare for the upcoming fall classes, and to talk about their experiences at our law school. Below are excerpts from our discussion.

Assistant Dean Snape: What was the greatest challenge in teaching U.S. Criminal Law?

Ben Miller
Ben Miller

Miller: The greatest challenge of the class was trying to fit everything I wanted to teach about criminal law and procedure into one semester, and worrying if I was allocating class time and the readings in a way that would be as beneficial as possible for the students.

Snape: What was your greatest reward in teaching the course?

Miller: The greatest reward of teaching this class was simply the chance to get to know so many students from all over the world, and to learn from them. I always enjoyed talking with the students about the material we had covered in any given class. Just as rewarding were the frequent times when these conversations extended to talking about a criminal justice issue that was in the news at the moment, or when students taught me about how a similar U.S. criminal issue would be handled in the country where they were from.

Snape: Why are you excited to teach at AUWCL?

Plowell: I loved my experience at WCL and had great professors, many of whom I am still in contact with today, including Professor Ira Robbins, Professor Cynthia Jones, and Professor Angela Davis.  Teaching at the law school will allow me to contribute to WCL and its students in a concrete and meaningful way, while honoring the people who taught me. It is my sincerest goal that my students will leave this class with a greater understanding of the subject matter, a few funny anecdotes from my time as a prosecutor, and a sincere appreciation for U.S. Criminal Law and its practitioners. 

Tracee Plowell
Tracee Plowell

Snape: What is the best piece of advice you received from Miller as you prepare to take over this class?

Plowell: The best piece of advice Ben gave me was to bring passion to the classroom. I have been practicing criminal law since 1998 and I am very passionate about the subject matter, so I hope I can match his passion and enthusiasm.

Snape: What were your favorite courses at AUWCL?

Plowell: Very tough question to answer! I had amazing professors in all disciplines, including in my current practice areas of evidence, criminal law, and criminal procedure. But I also had wonderful professors in clinic, contracts, and unfair trade practices. It is just too hard to pick a favorite.  

Snape: Who were your favorite professors?

Miller: I had so many wonderful professors throughout my time at WCL but a few stand out. One is Professor Binny Miller, who taught the criminal defense clinic I enrolled in during my last semester. From the second I started at WCL, I could not wait to participate in clinic but the truth was I had no real sense what it meant to represent someone, especially someone facing all the consequences that stem from any criminal charge. Professor Miller taught me what client-centered representation truly meant and what I learned during my time in clinic from Professor Miller guided me in the years I spent as a public defender in Maryland and the District.  One funny story occurred the very first day I was teaching U.S. Criminal Law. Many students had signed up apparently thinking they were getting Professor Binny Miller. I took it as a compliment despite their confusion!

AUWCL is so fortunate to have talented alumni who can come back to teach our current students. Our law school is a dynamic learning institution where relationships and bonds do not end at graduation, but last a lifetime. Miller, Plowell, and their students are testimony to this wonderful reality.