Law lecture series continues with leaders in racial justice and immigration

Federal appellate Judge Bernice Donald, JD, president of the American Bar Foundation, and Thomas A. Saenz, JD, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), will be the next speakers for the 16th annual School of Law Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series.

Donald, the law school’s 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Speaker, will present “From the Struggle for Civil Rights to Strivings in ‘Post-Racial America,'” at noon Thursday, Jan. 30; Saenz will present “America’s Critical Immigrant Workforce: The Evolving Legal Landscape” at noon Thursday, Feb. 27. Both talks will be at noon in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom (No. 310) of Anheuser-Busch Hall at Washington University in St. Louis.


Donald, of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is the first African American and the second woman to lead the American Bar Foundation in its 60-year history. During her tenure, she founded the American Bar Association Spirit of Excellence Award to honor the accomplishments of lawyers of color who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. In 2011, Donald herself won the award. Donald’s lecture is co-sponsored by Jurist-in-Residence, the Black Law Students Association and the Women’s Law Caucus.


Saenz, a nationally recognized civil rights attorney and former counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has negotiated important legislative initiatives and litigated significant civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants’ rights, employment, education, affirmative action and voting rights. He was a leader in successful negotiations involving funding for the Los Angeles public schools and city employees.

He successfully challenged as unconstitutional California’s Proposition 187, a ballot initiative to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit “illegal aliens” from using health care, public education and other social services in California. He also served as MALDEF’s lead counsel in litigation involving California’s Proposition 227, English-only education initiative. Saenz’s lecture is co-sponsored by the law school Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work & Social Capital, the Latin America Public Interest Law Initiative, the Latin American Law Student Association and the Immigration Law Society.

The yearlong Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series brings to WUSTL nationally and internationally prominent experts in such areas as civil rights, racial justice, capital punishment and immigration, with the goal of fostering interdisciplinary conversations across the university and the community about the social, political and economic issues involved in access to justice.

The 2013-14 series features judges, lawyers, authors and academics with expertise in public interest law and policy.

Lectures are free and open to the public.

For a full list of the 2013-14 speakers, visit here.