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Behind the Headlines

Careful readers (not that there is any other kind) of W&L Law: The Washington and Lee School of Law Magazine will recall an article from the Spring/Summer 2010 issue. In it, one of the professors in the newly created Criminal Practice Practicum said this about defending an accused criminal: “The idea is that we stand between the power of the state and the individual, and in doing so, defend the core values of what makes this country great. None of us, including those accused of crime, wants to be defined by the worst moment, or worst day of our lives.”

That quote belongs to Judy Clarke, whose name wound up in coast-to-coast headlines this week when she was appointed to defend Jared Lee Loughner in federal court. He is the man accused of shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing several bystanders.

Along with fellow criminal defense attorney Jon Shapiro, Judy taught the 12 students in last winter’s practicum as part of W&L’s innovative third-year law curriculum.  In the interview for the law magazine with Pete Jetton, director of communications for the Law School, Judy described her goal for the students: “Touch a hot stove and you will not do it again. Practicum classes help students learn the impact of various litigation strategies and to consider what steps should be taken in the best interests of their client and their cause. It also lets them learn on the job with no consequences to a real client.”

Of course, Judy’s work does not have the luxury of no consequences, not in her current assignment, and not in such other high-profile cases as her defense of Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drowned her two young sons; the Olympic Park bomber, Eric Rudolph; and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

Numerous major media outlets profiled Judy after she was named the defense attorney in the Arizona case. David Bruck, W&L clinical professor of law and director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, was quoted in many of those stories. He described her lack of ego as “so uncharacteristic among criminal defense lawyers that it’s almost freakish.” He also told the the San Diego Union in Judy’s hometown that she is “inexhaustible” and never seeks the limelight.

Judy began teaching at the School of Law in 2006 and, in addition to the practicum, teaches a traditional criminal procedure course. She divides her time between Lexington and a private practice in San Diego. Her husband of 35 years, Speedy Rice, is also on the Law School faculty and teaches Transnational Practicum courses, which put students to work on legal issues in Liberia, Cambodia and The Hague. During her career, Judy has directed the San Diego and Spokane federal public defender offices, and is former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.