June 29, 2016

Professor Juliet Stumpf selected as 2016 Leo Levenson winner

This award is granted by the graduating class each year

Juliet Stumpf, Robert E. Jones Professor of Advocacy and Ethics, was awarded the coveted Leo Levenson Award for Excellence in Teaching by this year’s graduating class. Juliet teaches civil procedure, employment discrimination, and immigration law.

What was your path to law school and becoming a law prof at LC? Do you have any recommendations for people who might want to follow in your footsteps?

I had no plans to go to law school until my junior year of college when I spent a semester in Ecuador.  I took on an independent research project for a human rights organization interviewing children who had undergone torture by the secret police. At a meeting with one of officers during my project, he explained that the treatment of the children—which included beatings, electrical shock, and physical suspension–were methods of crime control, deterring children from petty theft and a life of crime.

Law seemed to me the only thing powerful enough to restrain that kind of unbridled exercise of government power.  Law is really just a collection of articulated ideas, but they are ideas that matter.  Combined with my family’s immigration history, in which my grandparents fled from the Nazis to Chile where my father and his two siblings grew up, I became fascinated by immigration law with its connection to international human rights and its implications for membership status in society. 

After law school, I worked for a law firm practicing intellectual property and antitrust law, taking on pro bono projects in immigration law and human rights. I joined the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice, where I litigated immigration-related employment discrimination cases and gave seminars to employers and employees on civil rights. I spent a fantastic year clerking for Judge Richard Paez on the Ninth Circuit.  I turned to academia because it combined so many things that I love: teaching, writing, creativity and collaboration with inspired, motivated students and advocates.  I entered academia as an Acting Assistant Lawyering Professor at NYU.  My first visit to Portland was my job interview at Lewis and Clark, and like so many of my students, I grew to love it here.

What are some of your current projects, and what are some of your plans for the future?

My current research and teaching projects focus on transformation of law.  I am working on two articles for publication, both co-authored with adjunct professor Stephen Manning who directs the Innovation Law Lab. The first, Liminal Immigration Law, explores how immigrant advocacy and agency innovations are creating a new currency of “law” that operates beyond the edge of traditional law, but has the same or similar effect as traditional forms of law like statutes, regulations, or judicial precedent.  The article will use the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the mandatory immigration detainer as examples, describing how they each operate as liminal law. 

We will also publish Big Immigration Law, which explores how innovation in legal advocacy leads to change in immigration law. The article arises from advocacy around the detention of Central American mothers and their children fleeing hyper-violence in the Northern Triangle to seek asylum in the United States.  It examines how new structures in immigration law advocacy that seek to equalize the imbalance in enforcement power between government and noncitizen are shaping the legal issues surrounding family detention.

Both articles arose from our collaboration around the Transformative Immigration Law Seminar that we co-teach and which has focused each year on immigration detention. This year our students drafted three amicus briefs.  The larger purpose of the briefs was to model an empirical approach to gang-based and domestic violence-based asylum claims. We invited academics, social scientists, judges, lawyers, and organizers into the classroom via video conference for an intense 20-minute discussion of our guest’s role in legal change. 

What do you like to do for fun outside the law campus?

My husband and I have two kids, Liam and Kai, who are 10 and 12.  We love to bike, roller blade, camp, travel abroad, play soccer, sing, pick blueberries, go out for brunch, and crack each other up with painfully silly jokes.  We just bought a used kayak, and are on a quest for the best donuts in Portland.

What did you think when you learned you were chosen by the graduates to receive the prestigious Levenson award?

I thought Dean Davis had mistaken me for Professor Doug Newell, so I accepted quickly before she realized her mistake! 

Actually, I felt deeply honored. This class of students has taken the initiative in so many ways that matter. Ten of them traveled with me to Dilley, Texas, to advocate for mothers and children detained in the privately-run detention center there. Students in the Transformative Immigration Law Seminar and in the Immigration Law reading group put hours of work into projects aimed toward legal change. I learn every fall about the hopes and dreams of my Civil Procedure students, and what it took for them to come here.  It’s already a privilege to teach here. Receiving the Levenson Award is a very special gift, and I will feel proud and honored every time I see it on my wall.