The Law Dean Series

Katherine S. Broderick

University of the District of Columbia School of Law
Katherine S. Broderick
University of the District of Columbia School of Law

Located in the nation's capital, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law has the largest clinical requirement of any law school in the United States. This opportunity for experiential learning and extensive practical training allows each law student to gain hands-on experience in providing 600 hours pro bono service, with the students and faculty of UDC-DCSL providing more than 100,000 hours of essential legal services to residents of Washington, DC, each year.

Since 1999, Katherine S. Broderick has served as Dean of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. A member of the UDC-DCSL faculty and administration since 1979, she served as faculty member, Associate Dean, Clinical Director, and Interim Dean prior to her appointment as Dean. In 2011, Dean Broderick was named the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Chair of Social Justice.

Throughout her academic and legal career, she has garnered numerous distinguished awards and recognitions, including the “Educational Leadership Award” from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund (2016), the “Effective Force in Service of the People Award” from the D.C. Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild (2015), the Champion of Justice Award from the Trial Lawyers Association of Washington (2010), and many more.

We spoke to Dean Broderick about the challenges and opportunities available to law students, and she answered our questions about the continually evolving legal profession and the new frontier lawyers face.

What are the biggest challenge facing new law students?

Learning to be a lawyer is a lot like learning to drive. You have to learn the rules of the road, you have to take in an enormous amount of information coming at you from every direction, and you have to develop the skills to make it all work seamlessly, smoothly and effectively. It takes rigorous study, patience and practice. Most law students, like new drivers, figure that eventually they will get it. After all, everyone around them seems to get it, but it’s scary, and challenging!

What is the single biggest challenge that you face as dean?

Deans, if they are not careful, can quickly find themselves awash in administrivia. Endless emails, meetings, reports, and personnel concerns can fill 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Deans have to work primarily with faculty, staff, and students but also with alumni, political officials, and funders to develop and prioritize critical initiatives, and to make steady progress toward successful measurable implementation. Last year, with significant new public and private financial support we had the opportunity to bring on five new faculty members who inspire us while also putting a shoulder to the wheel of the common enterprise. I give us an A+!! This year, after years of stability, we are rebuilding the administrative team with great new talent and energy. We are making great progress and look forward to earning high marks again! For me personally, the greatest challenge this year has been weathering an extremely difficult presidential election in our community, ensuring that our law school is a safe and caring place for all and heeding an urgent call to action to move the needle toward ending poverty and inequality.

Which areas of the law do you think will experience the biggest growth over the next few years?

Incredibly enough, what goes around seems to come around. These days I believe that we will see growth across the whole array of civil and human rights, civil liberties, cyber security, and compliance.

Is teaching law now different compared to when you were a law student?

When I was a student at Georgetown, in the late 70s, every required class had 125 students and legal writing was taught by a second year part-time student. Yes, pretty much everything has changed! These days we recognize that lawyers work collaboratively in comfortable spaces. Law faculty now provide assignments in which students must work collaboratively and law schools provide learning spaces where groups can meet and work together to solve problems. We also employ a much broader range of teaching techniques and academic support strategies. At our law school, we take an individualized approach with every student from Orientation through graduation to help them follow an intentional pathway to realize their career aspirations.

How do you think technology will impact criminal defense?

Technology will primarily impact criminal defense by requiring defense lawyers to understand and challenge new data driven policing and prosecution strategies. New big data innovations from “predictive policing,” to mass surveillance technologies, to data mining, are changing how police do their jobs. Predictive policing forecasts change where police go on patrol and who they stop on the streets. Predictive targeting identifies suspects for investigation and prosecution. Surveillance cameras, audio sensors, and enhanced digital search capabilities allow police to monitor areas with new ease. Datamining allows new clues to be uncovered from ordinary patterns of consumer and criminal activities. All of these technological changes require a criminal defense response. If defenders do not understand the new tools at the hands of law enforcement, they will disserve their clients and lose cases. If defenders do not adapt to understand and begin challenging the growing big data surveillance state, they will be at a distinct disadvantage in court. Technology will impact criminal defense first by forcing defenders to confront and grasp the technology.

Beyond investigation, the rules of evidence will become distorted with new digital trails revealing incriminating (and possibly exculpatory) evidence. Information from “the Internet of Things” (from Fitbits to smart cars) will change how prosecutors prove their cases. No longer will lawyers be guessing about what happened or when or where, but the challenge will be in evaluating the reliability and accuracy of the digital information. Digital clues and video surveillance (from police body cameras and CCTVs) will reveal a lot of the evidentiary gaps that witnesses once had to prove or juries had to infer. This will require lawyers to become technologists and understand how big data technologies are changing the game and their practice.

Finally, technology might also begin to give us a clue into how defenders do their job. There is very little data on what public defenders do, what are the best outcomes, how they can be measured, and what the benchmarks should be. This is changing with a few pilot projects, but much more can be done. Right now only a handful of jurisdictions track defender outcomes to measure effectiveness. Much more can be done to see how collecting data on defending can improve outputs and reveal the structural and funding gaps at the heart of indigent defense services.

What do you think are the biggest legal challenges facing the Supreme Court?

I will just focus on one case coming up this Term, Carpenter v. United States in which the Court must address the scope of the Fourth Amendment “third party doctrine” in the digital age. At issue is whether historic cell-site data requires a Fourth Amendment warrant, or whether the information does not require a warrant because the records were provided to a third party provider (and thus any expectation of privacy was lost). The case involves a test of old doctrine (dating back to the 1970s) and new technology (with future ramifications). The Court is faced with a dilemma. Applying the traditional precedent would essentially gut Fourth Amendment protections in the digital age, because almost all of our communications and content in the modern age is mediated 3 through third parties. However, requiring a warrant for third party data will put some extra burden on law enforcement, limiting their ability to collect vast stores of data. The Court is thus in a place where the traditional doctrine does not fit well and they have the choice whether to interpret that traditional view in a way that renders the Fourth Amendment irrelevant in the modern age or to create a new test for a digital Fourth Amendment. It is a big case and court watchers are eager to hear the arguments and see how the Court resolves the issue.

Are there any aspects of practicing law you miss due to being in education? I was a criminal defense lawyer and I loved nothing better than providing a robust defense for and with people in poverty facing the forces of the government in a court of law. I was lucky enough to do that however, as a clinical faculty member at the legendary Antioch school of Law from the earliest days of my career. I don’t miss it enough to go back however! I am also a past president of the DC ACLU and serve on the litigation screening committee. I love the robust debate about what cases to take and working through difficult legal questions and strategies.

If you could invite any three legal or governmental identities (living or dead, real or fictitious) to a meal, whom would you inivite?

Thurgood Marshall, Nelson Mandela, and Sonia Sotomayor, all great story tellers with amazing life stories who would share a glass of wine or two and keep me spellbound!

What is your favorite legal movie?

I can’t limit the answer to one but I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, Adam’s Rib, My Cousin Vinny, The Heat of the Night, and so many more!