About the 2009 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


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 2008, our Founders' Celebration gathered together more than 5,200 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 421 speakers who, together with attendees, represented 590 national and international organizations, 112 law firms, 123 U.S. and international law schools and universities, and 15 embassies. Many events were webcast and covered by the media, with related materials widely distributed, thereby expanding even further the outreach and access to important information.

A number of events were cosponsored with over 37 distinguished organizations including the ABA Coalition for Justice; ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice; ABA Section of International Law; American Association of Persons with Disabilities; American Society of International Law; Asian Pacific Bar Association of DC; Association for the Prevention of Torture; Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund; Global Arbitration Review; Inter American Commission on Human Rights; Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Preservation; National Organization on Disability; National Park Service; New Israel Fund; Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights; The Brookings Institution; and the U.S. International Council on Disability.

As this rich WCL tradition continues, I am privileged to present our 2009 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 2009 program has multiple highlights, including events that reflect the new administration and the current economic crisis: Information Policies in the New Administration, The Financial Stability Forum as the New Negotiating Block for International Economic Law, Financial Regulation Looking Beyond the Financial Crisis, and Picking Up the Pieces: Economic Policy in a New Administration. The 12th Annual Hispanic Conference will address the Challenges and Opportunities for the New Administration and the 111th Congress.

We will also cosponsor, together with the Association for the Prevention of Torture, an international conference of experts on the Prohibition of Torture and Other Ill-Treatment. Topics to be addressed include: analysis and review of key national, regional, and international legal frameworks and detention practices that can prevent torture and other ill-treatment; whether adequate legal frameworks are in place at the domestic level; how laws are applied and detention practices are reformed; and the access of independent experts to all places of detention.

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; Tenth Annual National High School Moot Court Competition; and the trilingual 14th Annual Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition. This year, we will be pleased to host the Inaugural Capitol City Challenge Mock Trial Competition.

We are pleased to present the first Kaufman Foundation Distinguished Lecture in Antitrust, Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the second Assisting Law Students with Disabilities in the 21st Century conference. We will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and marking the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide with: Is the Concept of “Genocide” Obsolete? A Conference Marking the Unlearned Lessons of Rwanda.

The programs featured in our 2009 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 10th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Commemoration, Military Commission Practice and Jurisprudence, Russia and the Rule of Law: New Opportunities in Domestic and International Affairs, Indian Nations and Institution Building, The Intersection of Asylum/Refugee Law and Islam, Legal Strategies to Promote Access to Medicine, and the 13th 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 2009 Founders' Celebration and to participate in the exciting endeavor of analyzing and shaping key issues of our time.

Claudio Grossman


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 The Honorable Dorothy Toth Beasley '64, Retired Senior Judge, District Court of Georgia the recipient of the 2009 Women and the Law Leadership Award. The Award will be presented to The Honorable Dorothy Toth Beasley during a luncheon ceremony bringing together women leaders from around the world.