UB Law Students, Faculty and Staff –
With the lifting of the curfew in Baltimore over the weekend, the law school has returned to its normal schedule. But as our attention turns to final exams and other inward concerns, I hope members of the UB law school community will not lose focus on the need to understand and address the anger that manifested itself at the beginning of last week.
While the neighborhood around our school was not directly affected by unrest, we have a big stake in the improvement of relations between the Baltimore City Police Department and residents of the city. The police play a vital role in our society, and most officers carry out their duties in an exemplary and courageous manner. Yet some officers abuse their authority, and residents in some Baltimore neighborhoods do not trust the police to enforce the law in a fair and appropriate way. That loss of confidence is corrosive to our whole criminal justice system, and must be reversed. As a public institution and one of only two law schools in the State, we have an important role to play in the months ahead.
I’m exceptionally proud of the UB students, faculty and staff who have already begun to step up to that challenge. [Last] weekend, for example, student leaders Kush Patel, Lelia Parker and Taylor Beckham spearheaded a “UBLawCares Community Clean Up” attended by many students and staff members. BLSA members helped organize two separate Legal Observer trainings at UB with assistance from Professors Odeana Neal and Colin Starger. Other students volunteered to assist the Office of the Public Defender by interviewing arrestees at Baltimore City Central Booking.
The law school community has also played a constructive role through public commentary on developments. 2L Caylin Young published an eloquent op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, while Professor Ken Lasson offered a historical perspective on events in the Wall Street Journal. Professors Mike Higginbotham, Byron Warnken, Jose Anderson, Amy Dillard and others have been interviewed in various media outlets. Professor Nienke Grossman explained the situation (in Spanish!) to an Argentinian newspaper.
Last week my conference room was the setting for a meeting between officials from DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and Baltimore faith leaders. Later today, Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be at UB to meet with community leaders as well as the Gray family. It is appropriate that our law school be a venue for discussion of these critical legal issues.
In these and other ways, UB will remain involved in the process of strengthening police-community relations and healing last week’s wounds. Like the rest of our university, this law school stands with Baltimore. We are proud to be Baltimore’s law school.