Dean’s View

A photo of UW Law School Dean Dan Tokaji wearing a black suit, black shoes, red UW themed tie, glasses, and smiling at the camera as he sits on a purple stool in the Law Library space.
Dan Tokaji

Hello dear friends, and welcome to another exciting issue of University of Wisconsin Law School’s Gargoyle maga­zine! We’ve got some especially inspiring stories to share with you in this edition.

At the top of the list is our State Democ­racy Research Initiative (SDRI). Some of you may be familiar with the SDRI, from having attended one of their many in-per­son or virtual events. Founded by UW Law faculty Miriam Seifter and Robert Yablon, the SDRI fosters academic research on state-level democracy and institutions across the nation. In just over two years, SDRI has had a major impact by shining a spotlight on state governments, which traditionally receive much less scholarly attention than the federal government.

We’re incredibly proud of the work of Pro­fessors Seifter and Yablon and the talented SDRI staff who have built this incredible resource for academics, policymakers and advocates across the country. We’re also deeply grateful for the outside support that SDRI has received, which has allowed them to build a top-flight team of lawyers and experts. You can read more about our SDRI team and their amazing work in the article, “Weight of the States.”

We continue to work toward creating an inclusive community that welcomes people with different backgrounds, experiences, identities and perspectives. This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of our Hastie Fellow­ship, which has been a leader in preparing a diverse group of aspiring legal scholars for careers as law professors and leaders in their communities. The program honors William H. Hastie, a lawyer, teacher, jurist and civil rights advocate who championed the importance of high-quality legal educa­tion. You can learn more about the program and a few of its impressive graduates in “Reflections From 50 Years.”

In this edition, we also explore wellness at the Law School and welcome Amanda White Eagle ’05, Lisa Washington ’22 and Christopher Lau. All are returning to UW Law after spending time at other law schools. We’re so excited to have these all-star scholars and teachers rejoin our community. You can learn more about them in “Welcome Back.”

We’re also highlighting the excellent work of several of our faculty, including Su­mudu Atapattu, director of the Global Legal Studies Center, who recently published a much-needed book on climate change and human rights. Professor Atapattu pres­ents the first in-depth analysis of how UN human rights institutions and mechanisms have addressed environmental protection, sustainable development and climate change. It’s incredibly fascinating and important work, which you can learn more in the piece, “Latest Work by Sumudu Atapattu.”

Also highlighted in this edition is the timely work of Assistant Professors of Law Nina Varsava and Franciska Coleman, whose current work focuses on stare deci­sis and cancel culture, respectively. You can learn more about their research in “Abortion Ruling Leads to Deep Look at Stare Decisis” and “Breaking Down the Anatomy of Cancel Culture.”

This year, John Ohnesorge, professor of law and director of the East Asian Legal Studies Center, is in Seoul, South Korea, on a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. While there, Professor Ohnesorge is researching South Korea as a case study of democrati­zation and the role of law. It’s a developing area of scholarship, and Professor Ohne­sorge’s many years of experience make him the ideal person to carry it out. He’s also taken on a new role as senior advisor to our graduate programs, for which we’re very grateful. You can learn more about him in the story, “A Seoul Journey.”

Within this edition, we’ve got a lot of other wonderful treats as well, including interviews with Ho-Chunk Nation Trial Court Associate Judge JoAnn Jones ’86, who recently retired at age 83. Jones was the first female leader of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a role in which she served from 1991-95. You can learn more in “Jones ’86: ‘I wanted to serve my Ho-Chunk people’.”

We’ve got so many other gems in this edition, including interviews with several of our impressive students and outstand­ing alumni. I can’t wait for you to read all about it.

In closing, a big thank-you to all of you who have supported the Law School finan­cially over the past year. We depend upon our alumni and other friends giving back to keep the great opportunities we offer accessible to the next generation of lawyers and leaders. We are, as always, eternally grateful.

On, Wisconsin!

Daniel P. Tokaji