About the 2008 Founders Celebration

The Centerpiece of SECLE's work is the Founders Celebration, a series of events over a 3-month period held during the spring semester. The celebration commemorates the founding of WCL by Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett in 1896 at a time when few women were admitted to law school or the legal profession.

"The real measure of success is what you put into the world, what you leave behind, not what you get out of it for yourself."

-- Ellen Spencer Mussey

Speech at the 10th Anniversary of WCL's Founding


Claudio Grossman

American University Washington College of Law (WCL) has an established tradition of offering exceptional and diverse conferences and lectures during our annual Founders' Celebrations. During the first five months of 2007, our Founders' Celebration gathered together more than 5,700 lawyers, students, judges, scholars and other professionals from around the nation and the world to attend our 62 Founders' events and conferences on key issues of our time. These events involved 506 speakers who, together with attendees, represented 513 national and international organizations, 120 law firms, 125 U.S. and international law schools and universities, and 21 embassies. Many events were covered by the media and related materials were widely distributed, expanding even further the outreach and access to important information. A total of 40 programs were web cast, increasing the law school's visibility and accessibility to an audience unprecedented in both size and diversity.

A number of events were cosponsored with over 44 distinguished organizations including the National Parks Service, American Society of International Law, Citigroup, Organization of American States, Department for the Promotion of Good Governance, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Bar Association Section of International Law, U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Hispanic National Bar Association, Center for International Environmental Law, American Society of Comparative Law, D.C. Court of Appeals, Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, National Muslim Law Students Association, Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Committee on Disability of the National Organization on Disability.

As this rich WCL tradition continues, I am privileged to present our 2008 Founders' Celebration. The extensive programming reflects our commitment to providing a vast array of events that engage the community, the nation and the world.

Our 2008 program has multiple highlights, including events that reflect the crucial role of the judiciary in a democratic society. This extraordinary series follows similar initiatives in prior years, through which WCL welcomed expert presentations by numerous judicial leaders from diverse hemispheres and legal systems. The 2007 series included: hearings by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court and by the D.C. Court of Appeals; a presentation by Justice Albie Sachs of the South Africa Constitutional Court on judicial enforcement of social and economic rights; a keynote address by the Honorable Reggie Walton, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, for our commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday; a program addressing the promotion of access to justice, moderated by the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, and with the participation of the Honorable Anna Blackburn-Rigsby, D.C. Superior Court, Honorable Tyrone T. Butler, Chief Administrative Law Judge, Office of Administrative Hearings, Washington, DC, Honorable Jeannie Hong, Baltimore City District Court, and the Honorable Ricardo J. Urbina, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia; and the 2007 Annual Conference of the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary, which WCL cosponsored together with the Maryland and District of Columbia Association of Administrative Adjudicators. Along with presentations by other distinguished domestic and foreign judges, this unique series of events highlighted the importance of the judiciary and greatly enhanced our understanding of the vital issues raised.

In 2008, WCL will again host numerous outstanding events involving members of the judiciary from around the nation and the world, including: a program on Basic Special Education Law for Special Education Hearing Officers, which we are cosponsoring with the National Academy of IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers as well as with Seattle University School of Law; the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee and the Honorable Anna Blackburn-Rigsby, participants in "Moving From the Past in the Legal Profession: Black History Month Opening Ceremony 2008;" a two-day symposium on Rethinking the Future: The Next Five Years in Iraq, featuring Chief Investigatory Judge Raid Juhi of the Iraq High Tribunal; the program "What Do We Know About Tribal Courts? An Examination of the 30th Anniversary of Oliphant;" the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia and former Chief Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (1995-2002), who will be the guest speaker at the First Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration; and the Honorable Ricardo J. Urbina, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who will be the guest speaker for the spring 2008 Dean's Diversity Council Speaker Series.

We will also feature WCL's United Nations Committee against Torture (UN CAT) Project, which is a unique experiential learning opportunity that enables selected upper-level students to deepen their knowledge of international human rights law through a seminar on the prohibition of torture as well as the Project's field component: attending the official UN CAT meetings in Geneva, Switzerland.

At the same time, the law school is pleased to host programs concerning Innovations in the First Year Curriculum; Junior Federal Courts Faculty Workshop; and the Role of Law Schools in Promoting and Protecting Human Rights. WCL will continue our strong tradition of hosting a variety of moot court competitions, including: the Alvina Reckman-Myers First Year Moot Court Competition; William H. Karchmer Spring Moot Court Competition; Ninth Annual National High School Moot Court Competition; and the trilingual 13th Annual Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition.

The programs featured our 2008 Founders' Celebration will address a rich array of topics including business, arbitration, the constitution, human rights, gender, international trade, intellectual property, legal education, the environment, health, and diversity, among others. A further sampling of events illustrates the variety and significance of this year's offerings: The Right to Die With Dignity: An Argument in Ethics and Law; Current Issues in Tax Law: the IRS and Cultural Property; the Dean's Business Law Lecture Series; International Commercial Arbitration in the Americas: A Look Ahead; the Robert C. Byrd Lifetime Achievement Appreciation Symposium; Climate Change and Claiming the Artic Circle; Current Issues and Controversies in the Federal Death Penalty Charging Policy; the Eleventh Annual Hispanic Law Conference; Prosecuting Sexual and Gender Based Crimes in the ICC: Translating Promises into Reality; and the 12th Annual Sylvania Woods Conference on African Americans and the Law, just to name a few.

Numerous events will be offered with Continuing Legal Education accreditation and are highlighted in the brochure. I invite you to join us for the 2008 Founders' Celebration and to participate in the exciting endeavor of analyzing and shaping key issues of our time.


In hosting the annual Founders' Celebration, WCL follows in the footsteps of its founders, Emma Gillett and Ellen Spencer Mussey, who believed that legal education was key to achieving gender equality. Our founders would be proud to know that their institution's contributions to the rule of law continue to inspire our community. In 1896, when Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett founded our law school, they created an institution that gave voice to many who, until then, had none. Our founders had the courage to see potential where few had dared, and the determination and practical action to realize their vision. More than 100 years later, WCL further contributes to human dignity by working to transform ideals into reality. In honoring Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett, our Founders' Celebration seeks out innovative and diverse topics, examines engaging legal developments worldwide, and analyzes important issues facing practitioners in the field.

One person who continues the vision of these remarkable women is Pamela Deese '83, the recipient of the 2008 Women and the Law Leadership Award.

The Award will be presented to Pamela Deese during a luncheon ceremony bringing together women leaders from around the world.