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Diversity Week 2020 Focuses on Belonging and Justice

Diversity Week at Pepperdine Caruso Law is an annual series of events designed to bring the community together to celebrate the rich cultural and spiritual diversity that exists among our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff. This year, the entire week of presentations and dialogues were held in an online format, which were well-attended and appreciated by Caruso Law JD students, Straus Institute students, MLS students, and international LLM students.

The week began on Monday, September 14, with the launch of the 2020-21 Dean's Speaker Series, featuring Professor Dorothy Brown. Professor Brown, who served as Caruso Law Straus Distinguished Visiting Professor in the spring of 2019, discussed her newly-published book, Critical Race Theory, which examines doctrinal subjects through the lens of race and diversity. That conversation will continue through the Race and the Law series throughout the year. Video coverage of the event may be found here.

On Tuesday, an Interfaith Panel, facilitated by Professor Tiffany Williams and Amy Jicha of the Interfaith Student Council, featured Caruso Law alumni who come from diverse faith backgrounds. The alumni panel of Jed Segura (JD '20), Yusuf Alwattar (JD '18), Gunita Singh (JD '19), Jon Derby (JD '04), and Brittany Stringfellow-Otey (JD '01) discussed how their respective faiths of Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity impact their careers and inform the ways in which they approach the law. The panelists each came to Caruso Law wanting to help others and to become peacemakers. They agreed that ethics in practice, integrity, and honesty play a large part in their careers. The panelists advised students to continue their faith journeys through law school because faith and their legal professions will run together, each strengthening the other.

The week's events continued on Wednesday with the first Open Conversation of the semester, hosted by Professor Jeff Baker. The conversation centered on the topic "Finding Hope and Making Progress on Racial Justice and Equity." During the conversation, participants thoughtfully raised and discussed important current issues.

Thursday's event celebrated Constitution Day with the program "Black Lives Matter and the US Constitution," held in partnership with California LAW Pathways. The program featured presentations by UC Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and City of San Francisco Director of the Department of Police Accountability Paul Henderson. Chemerinsky discussed Supreme Court cases that have created issues of race in policing and obstacles for plaintiffs to establish standing in court. He conveyed that he hopes the Black Lives Matter movement is sending a message to judges and legislatures at all levels that it is time for unfair practices to end. Henderson discussed his educational journey and how he decided to get a law degree so he could help his own disenfranchised community. He advised students to stay committed to their educational goals in the law so that society as a whole can move forward.

On Friday, Judge Esther P. Kim of the Los Angeles Superior Court and Caruso Law alumna Sarah George (JD '19), law clerk to US District Court Judge Andre Birotte, discussed "Diversity on the Bench." Judge Kim related that she initially didn't think a legal career was attainable because she did not see anyone who looked like her in the profession and did not know the path. After graduating from law school and serving as a deputy attorney general, she was encouraged by another judge to apply for a judgeship. She conveyed that diversity on the bench gains the trust of everyone who comes into a courtroom and assures them that they will be respected, treated fairly, and heard. Judge Kim encouraged students to think broadly about what type of lawyer they want to become and to pursue those goals. Alumna Sarah George advised students to learn how the judicial process works and to gain mentorship. She related that judicial decisions impact individual lives in significant ways and how diversity on the bench incorporates humanity in the law.

Pepperdine Caruso Law is pleased that the enthusiastic and thoughtful participation of our entire community made this year's Diversity Week events a meaningful and memorable experience for all.