On February 20-21, the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law celebrated three significant milestones –15 years of the Justice Center, 10 years of the Mithoff Pro Bono Program, and what would have been Judge William Wayne Justice’s 100th birthday.
Texas Law alumnus Judge Justice ’42, was a federal judge who sat on the bench for over forty years, and issued numerous landmark rulings protecting civil rights and ensuring equal justice. The Justice Center is named in his honor. The Mithoff Program, the Justice Center’s signature project, is named in honor of Richard Mithoff (one of Judge Justice’s former clerks) and his wife Ginni, who have endowed the program with a major gift.
The celebration began on February 20 with Cupcakepalooza – an all-school lunch with remarks by Dean Ward Farnsworth, cupcakes, and swag. The following day the Justice Center hosted a lunch honoring Judge Justice and a panel discussion celebrating the Justice Center and Mithoff Program’s achievements. The events were attended by Judge Justice’s family, friends, and former clerks, as well as the law school community.
Four of Judge Justice’s law clerks spoke at the February 21 lunch program about his legacy and impact. Professor Lynn Blais, who has written a chapter about Judge Justice in a forthcoming book, provided historical context. Steven Farr spoke about Plyler v. Doe, an important decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Judge Justice’s ruling that states cannot constitutionally deny students free public education based on their immigration status. Richard Albritton and Audrey Selden gave personal tributes.
The afternoon program featured several panels of recent Texas Law graduates who are advocating for social justice in various fields, paired with more experienced attorneys (mostly Judge Justice clerks) with whom they have worked. The lawyers described research, litigation, pro bono clinics, and other initiatives they’ve worked on together – work that is also closely connected to the Justice Center and the Mithoff Program.
The panelists included Stephanie Trinh ‘14, policy advisor and counsel to Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar, and Heather Way ‘96 (WWJ clerk 1996-97), director of Texas Law’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic; Wesley Hartman ’18, an attorney with Texas Legal Services Center’s KIND Medical-Legal Partnership, and Lucy Wood (WWJ clerk 1999-2000), a clinical professor who founded the Mithoff Program’s INCLUDE Disability Law Project; Lochlin Rosen ’17, a deputy public defender with the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, and Meg Clifford ‘12, staff attorney with the Mithoff Program; Marissa Latta ’18 and Nelson Mock ‘98 (WWJ clerk 1998-99), housing attorneys at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA); Andrea Meza ’15, director of family detention services at RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), and Elissa Steglich ‘00 (WWJ clerk 2000-2001), co-director of Texas Law’s Immigration Clinic; and Erin Gaines ’13, manager of TRLA’s Community Development Team, and Amy Johnson (WWJ clerk 1985-86), who consults for TRLA on environmental cases.
“We are very grateful to the panelists for helping us highlight the work of the Justice Center and the Mithoff Program to increase access to justice and foster the next generation of public interest lawyers,” said Eden Harrington, director of the Justice Center. “And we are very grateful to the lunch speakers and to Judge Justice’s family, clerks, and friends for helping us celebrate Judge Justice and his legacy.”