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The Online Version
of the Magazine
of Cornell Law School


Spring 2010


Volume 36, No 1

Dean Stewart J. Schwab

Myron Taylor Hall Tower

Myron Taylor Hall Arch
Table of Contents  Featured Article

A message from the Dean


Dear Alumni and Friends:

Perhaps you saw the news in the New York Times. Maybe you read it on our website, in our e-newsletter, or on Twitter or Facebook. If you regularly seek out Cornell Law School in the national media, perhaps you read the headline for yourself online in the Wall Street Journal:

The Dream of Every Recent College Grad:
To Go to Cornell Law

This article, and others like it, stem from our announcement that we have received more applications this year than in any other year in history, a whopping fifty-two percent increase over last year. While some of this increase reflects the growth in the number of law school applicants nationwide, Cornell’s percentage far outpaces our peer institutions. As one reporter put it, “Cornell Law School is Hot!”

One question I’m often asked is, “why?” My standard answer is, “the word is out. Cornell is a great place to study law!” Our small size, accessible faculty, and supportive culture distinguish us among the top law schools.

We have been executing our plan to increase visibility by reaching out to wider audiences, both in the print media and online. As evidence of this success, the average number of visits to our website has doubled in the past year, and the mention of our faculty and school in the national media has tripled since 2008. And when we ask new students about the quality of our outreach to them—both students who accept our offer of admission and those who elect to go elsewhere—they rank Cornell Law School ahead of our peers by a margin of five to one.

But while these heightened outreach efforts may help spread the good news about Cornell Law School, our substantive quality is the key to our success. Cornell has a tradition of training talented students to become “lawyers in the best sense,” of producing important scholarly research that continues to help us understand the law, and of hosting programs and institutes that offer our students and faculty the opportunity to, quoting Mahatma Gandhi, “be the change (they) want to see in the world.”

One of Cornell’s signature programs is our Death Penalty Project, whose activities we highlight in this issue of the Forum. The Project, which has three major types of activities and takes no official position on the wisdom or desirability of the death penalty. In particular, the empirical arm of the Project is committed to the impartial study of the operation and impact of the death penalty. The second activity is the clinical representation of persons charged with capital offenses. There is no litmus test for students who work on the Project’s cases or research projects, although it is fair to say that most students and faculty who become engrossed in the work perhaps inevitably question the fairness and morality of capital punishment. The third activity is providing resources and training to lawyers who defend capital cases. The Death Penalty Project’s overall premise is that when the government uses extreme criminal sanctions, it should do so with great care and reflection, and only when the defendant is well-represented.

In this issue of the Forum, we begin with an overview of capital punishment in the United States. We examine one specific case in which our clinic has been involved for several years. We hear from Professor John Blume on the likelihood of the United States abolishing the death penalty in the foreseeable future, and we hear from an exonerated death row inmate about life before, during, and after his incarceration. Whatever your personal view, I hope these articles will reacquaint you with the history, update you on the facts, and help you form a more clear opinion of the issues surrounding one of the most controversial sanctions and human rights issues of our time.

As always, the Forum updates you on recent activities at the school, reconnects you with the work of our faculty, and shares some notable alumni achievements. In between issues of the Forum, I encourage you to connect with the Law School online— by visiting our website, subscribing to our monthly e-newsletter, or following us on your favorite online social network.

You are welcome to visit us in Ithaca or to e-mail me directly with your observations and comments about the magazine or any other aspect of the Law School. From all of us at Myron Taylor Hall, please accept my thanks for the good work you do and my very best wishes in the months ahead.

Stewart J. Schwab
The Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law

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