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Renowned defense expert to lead Valparaiso Law School

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Valparaiso University has tapped a capital defense attorney and academic clinician to lead the law school, underscoring the growing importance of hands-on training in legal education.

lyon-andrea-15col.jpg Andrea D. Lyon (Photo submitted)

Andrea D. Lyon, associate dean for clinical programs at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, has been appointed dean of the Valparaiso University Law School effective June 2, 2014. She has experience teaching and practicing law as well as holding administrative positions.

“The match between Professor Lyon’s gifts and commitment and the law school’s mission and curricular emphases suggests she is very much the right person for the right position at the right time,” said Mark Schwehn, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “She will make a splendid addition to our entire community of learning.”

Ivan Bodensteiner will continue as interim dean until Lyon assumes office. She will be the first woman dean at the law school.

Initially, Lyon’s candidacy for the top post at the Valparaiso University Law School was met with skepticism in some quarters.

Lyon is a nationally known criminal defense expert, defending more than 40 capital cases at trial and writing about her experiences in a memoir, “Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer.” She has also

blogged about her work and her views of justice for the Huffington Post.

Questions were raised as to whether she had the academic background needed to be a dean and if she could be the diplomat that sometimes deans are required to be. However, those concerns dissipated after the first meetings and turned into a cascade of calls for her appointment.

“She has the unusual ability to relate to all kinds of people and get them on board,” said Rosalie Levinson, Valparaiso professor of law and chair of the dean search committee.

Lyon pointed to her time in arguing against the death penalty in front of juries who supported capital punishment.

“I am used to talking to people who don’t agree with me,” she said. “My personal politics are mine and have no place in the law school. People don’t have to agree with me to work with me.”

The search for a new dean began in the spring after Jay Conison stepped down to become dean of the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina.

With the help of the Illinois-based recruitment firm Witt/Kieffer, the nine-member search committee, comprised primarily of law school faculty, took advantage of the free time the summer offered to identify and interview candidates.

The group was working in a competitive environment because many law schools are looking for new deans, Levinson said, but Valparaiso received a number of applications from all over the country.

Among the pool of candidates of mostly academics, Lyon stood out with her experience arguing cases and helping law students develop their practice skills, Levinson said. Her blend of work in the courtroom and classroom fits with the movement in legal education toward giving students more hands-on training.

At DePaul, Lyon is also a clinical professor of law and director of both the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College and the Center for Justice in Capital Cases.

She teaches in the death penalty clinic at the Center for Justice, providing instruction in doctrinal law, trial practice, preparation and strategy to represent clients in state and federal courts.

The mix of theory and clinical experience was the mainstay of Lyon’s own legal education at the pioneering, public-service-focused Antioch Law School in Washington D.C. There, Lyon said, the professors supervised the students in the clinics and always related the doctrinal work to the practical skills being taught.

As impressed as the search committee was with Lyon, she was equally impressed by Valparaiso Law School. She is excited about the school’s new curriculum, noting the traditional large-lecture format with students being taught only the caselaw method has to go because the market will not tolerate it.

No longer can students pick up the practice skills on the job, she said. They need to arrive already knowing how to interview a client, investigate facts and interpret a statute.

Consequently, hands-on experience has to be given to all law students, Lyon continued, not just the ones who elect to participate in the clinics. Students have to be intelligent about the law and understand the philosophical underpinning, but they also need to be able to talk to a client.

Lyon’s ideas on legal education resonated with Valparaiso law school alumnus Eugene Schoon. Since graduating in 1980 and joining the international firm Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago, he has seen the legal profession change to where now students have less time to acquire practice skills.

Meeting Lyon before she was appointed dean, Schoon said he particularly liked that she has been a practicing attorney as well as an academic. She knows what it is like to be in the courtroom and run a trial.

Lyon spent the bulk of her legal career in public service. After graduating from Antioch, she returned to her native Chicago and joined the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender where she held several positions and eventually became the chief of the homicide task force. In 1979, she became the first woman to serve as lead counsel on a death penalty case.

Defending individuals charged with capital crimes and holding prosecutors and police accountable matches her reason for going to law school in the first place. Lyon became a lawyer because she wanted to make the world a better place for people and, she added, she remains just as idealistic.

“I’m very excited and pleased with the decision,” Schoon said. “I think the law school’s approach was very thoughtful. I’m happy and looking forward to working with her.”

Schoon returns to campus each fall for a welcome hosted by minority students and encourages his firm to hire Valparaiso law graduates. He said the school is “doing really interesting things now” and attracting quality students.

Even so, he noted, the school needs a strong leader to get through these “challenging post-recession economic times” and to continue the tradition of teaching students the importance of professionalism, ethics and good judgment.

Lyon said she is ready. Although she does not officially start as dean until next summer, she has already been contacting faculty to solicit their ideas about how to meet the challenges in legal education.

“I’m all in,” Lyon said. “This is my school and my team and all in means all in.”•

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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