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Dean Thomas Guernsey’s Warm Welcome to TJSL at Reception, Panel Discussion

July 19, 2013


“It is wonderful to see so many proud alums here,” said emcee Dave Beavans ’08, as he greeted the guests at the welcoming reception for TJSL’s new Dean, Thomas Guernsey.

The setting could not have been more perfect.

It was a beautiful San Diego evening on TJSL’s 8th floor terrace overlooking the city at twilight. Faculty, staff and alumni attended the event – along with members of TJSL’s Board of Trustees and many notable members of the San Diego legal community, including California Fourth District Appeals Court Justice Patricia Benke, Assistant Superior Court President Judge David Danielsen, Superior Court Judge Browder Willis ’83 (TJSL Trustee), Superior Court Judge Robert Longstreth, Federal Magistrate Judge Jan Adler, Superior Court Judge (Ret.) Lillian Lim ’77 (Trustee)  and special guest, Brazilian Supreme Federal Court Justice Dias Toffoli.

The event was presented by the TJSL Alumni Association, with help in the planning and organization by the TJSL Alumni Office, and generous sponsors. (See Below)

“What an opportunity you have in front of you,” said Beavans, the Alumni Association Vice-President. told the guests that TJSL’s mission is “to become one of the most respected law schools in the U.S.”

Beavans shares that vision with the new dean, who comes to TJSL from Albany Law School, where he served as dean and later a law professor, and has set very high goals for TJSL and its place in the world of legal education.

“We have a great institution here,” said Dean Guernsey, as he stepped up to the podium. “There are three great parts. First, the faculty.  It compares favorably to any faculty in the country – a first-rate faculty we should be proud of.  Second, the student body. We have a history of access to legal education here and we are turning out wonderful practitioners who would not have had a chance to go to law school without TJSL. And third, our alumni. We can’t succeed without them. Your support is critical. We look forward to a long and productive relationship. We really look to set the future of legal education here.”

The dean was welcomed with enthusiastic applause by the crowd, which also shares Dean Guernsey’s optimism that this is a new day for Thomas Jefferson School of Law – a new day that brings the promise of a bright future.

“And justice for all…”

Just before the dean’s welcoming reception, the Alumni Association, the LEEP Program and the Center for Solo Practitioners presented an “International Access to Justice Panel” that was part of the evening’s festivities.

The three speakers were Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Dias Toffoli, Federal Magistrate Judge Jan Adler and Ben Aguilar ’11, who is with TJSL’s Center for Solo Practitioners.

Justice Toffoli led the audience through a detailed description of the role of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court in the Brazilian legal system. “The American system has influenced the Brazilian system,” Justice Toffoli said. “There are undeniable similarities.”

However, he noted that while the U.S. has had only one constitution, Brazil has had seven – the latest one ratified in 1988. And during those 25 years, “it has had 79 amendments.”

Justice Toffoli added that the Supreme Federal Court guarantees the supremacy of the constitution in that nation and “respects people’s fundamental rights.”  (See Justice Toffoli’s Remarks)

Magistrate Judge Jan Adler noted that it is the 50th anniversary of a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision – Gideon v. Wainright. Judge Alder explained that the case involved a drifter named Clarence Gideon, who in 1961 was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit because he couldn’t afford a lawyer. Gideon then sent a hand-written letter to the Supreme Court asking that his case be heard. Not only did the court hear the case – but their ruling, in Gideon’s favor, resulted in an affirmation in a citizen’s constitutional right to counsel.

“Had a man in Florida not sat down and written to the Supreme Court, the vast machinery of justice would have gone on undisturbed, but the decision changed the whole course of legal history,” Judge Adler added. “Yet we have a long way to go to assure access to justice. Many jurisdictions don’t have programs (such as Legal Aid) for adequate representation. Sixty-one million people are eligible for these services, yet only a fraction of people use them.”

He went on to detail the negative effect that sequestration is having on the federal courts – delaying cases for months and months.

“Justice delayed really is justice denied,” said Judge Adler. And quoting a commandment of the legendary Judge Learned Hand, he said: “Thou shalt not ration justice.”  (See Judge Adler’s Remarks)

Alumnus Ben Aguilar spoke of his experiences working within the justice systems in both Spain and Russia.  Both countries guarantee the right to counsel, he says, but “it has not been a smooth transition from the Communist system in Russia. Eighty percent of the people don’t have the resources to obtain counsel.”

In his role as an attorney with TJSL’s Center for Solo Practitioners,” Aguilar explained what he and his colleagues are doing to increase access to justice in San Diego – including a series of free clinics held in the community during June and July.

The event was a great prelude to the welcoming reception for Dean Guernsey, who has embraced TJSL’s role in the legal community as a force to bring about more access to justice for the citizens of San Diego who need representation.

Special thanks to the Dean’s Welcoming Reception and International Access to Justice Panel Sponsors:

Platinum Sponsor:

The Law Office of G. Cole Casey ’96, San Diego’s Premiere DUI Defense Firm

Gold Sponsors:

TJSL Center for Solo Practitioners

Denise Asher ’94, West Coast Resolution Group

Silver Sponsors:

Galente Ganci, APC, ’08

Law Office of Philip A. Shapiro, ’85

Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP

Friend Sponsors:

Jeremy Evans ’11, CSLlegal

Joanna Tsai ’02, JYTLAW

Kendall D. Berkey ‘94, Principal, Kane Ballmer & Berkman

P. Camille Guerra ’04, Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP

Tom Luneau ’86, Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP

Tony Knight ’05, Apex Court Reporting San Diego