From the Dean's Desk: Rising to the Challenge to Accomplish Our Mission

While this academic year looks different, what makes the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law community special—the relationships we build and the work we do—has continued, no matter where and how we interact.

Monday, November 29, 2021
Dean Sara Gordon

The beginning of an academic year is always an exciting time mixed with a little nervousness anticipating what it will bring. As students returned to in-person classes for the first time since spring 2020, those emotions were even more pronounced than usual. And while this year looks different, with some students on campus and others continuing to take classes remotely (and some doing a little of both), what makes the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law community special—the relationships we build and the work we do—has continued, no matter where and how we interact. 

The past 20 months have challenged us, and we continue to adapt to changes caused by the pandemic—changes in the nation, changes in our community, and changes at home. But this year, on the first day of classes, as I walked around the law school and saw faculty and students in classrooms for the first time in almost two years, I was reminded of how committed this community is and has always been to our core missions: to provide students a quality legal education, to support our faculty in their teaching and scholarship, to engage with our alumni, and to serve our community as Nevada’s only law school. 

This year’s edition of UNLV Law reflects the many ways in which we met those goals over the past year and highlights the law school’s commitment to improving the lives of everyone in our community, both here in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada.

Our cover story features the many Boyd students and faculty who made significant contributions to the 2021 Nevada legislative session. You’ll read about 3L Jorge “Coco” Padilla, who drafted a bill that went on to become Assembly Bill 376. This important piece of legislation, which Governor Steve Sisolak signed into law in June, secured $500,000 in state funds over two years to support the UNLV Immigration Clinic. Later in the summer, the Clark County Commission approved an additional $500,000 in public funding for the clinic, which provides legal defense to people facing deportation, especially unaccompanied children and those in detention.

Three additional Boyd students—3Ls Karyna Armstrong, Gabrielle Boliou, and Sebastian Ross—also drafted bills that eventually became law in our state. Armstrong and Ross worked together on what became Assembly Bill 254, which allows collegiate athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses. And Boliou partnered with Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy on legislation that removed the statute of limitations for sex trafficking offenders. 

The bills that Armstrong, Boliou, Padilla, and Ross drafted were all part of the law school’s inaugural Making the Law Competition, run by Boyd’s Policy and Legislation Society. This competition invites students to submit bill draft requests that are then turned into proposed bills and finally presented before legislators at a mock committee hearing. Judges include current and former members of the Nevada Legislature, as well as many Boyd alumni, lawyers, and lobbyists who are actively involved in Nevada’s legislative process.

Many other Boyd students and faculty also participated in this year’s legislative session. Thirteen students externed with law firms, and in public interest and government placements during the 2021 session, where they conducted public policy research, drafted proposed legislation, attended committee and floor hearings, and provided testimony. As you’ll see in our cover story, Dr. David Orentlicher, the Judge Jack and Lulu Lehman Professor of Law and director of the law school’s Health Law Program, served his first term as an assemblyman, and faculty members Frank Rudy Cooper, Ben Edwards, Frank Fritz, Eve Hanan, and Ann McGinley all played pivotal roles in the session.

While the impact of some of the work of Boyd’s students and faculty was immediate, other efforts focused on long-term solutions to seemingly intractable problems that we all face. Climate change, perhaps the defining crisis of our times, is widespread and rapidly intensifying, and the law school community is doing its part to address the many consequences of those changes. Fritz, a Senior Fellow, is helping to develop legal tools to combat climate change and has founded the Climate and Sustainability Law Project, which has provided legal research and policy recommendations to Nevada’s Office of the Attorney General. He also has published model laws to reduce legal barriers to building fueling stations for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and buses. 

This year also saw the development of Boyd’s new Indian Nations Gaming and Governance Program, which was made possible by a generous gift from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Led by nationally recognized leaders in gaming and tribal governance—including Distinguished Fellow in Gaming Law Anthony Cabot, International Gaming Institute Professor of Law Ngai Pindell, and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Professor of Law Addie Rolnick—this program consists of specialized academic training for J.D. and LL.M. students; public programming for diverse audiences; academic and policy research; and conferences and symposia examining current issues in tribal gaming and governance.

In the spring 2022 semester, we also look forward to welcoming two leading experts on tribal gaming from the University of North Dakota: professors Kathryn Rand and Steve Light, both of whom are Distinguished Fellows at the UNLV International Center for Gaming Regulation. Rand and Light will teach courses on tribal gaming and governance, and they will contribute to the program’s research on training in gaming, regulation, and governance for Indian Nations.

Within this issue, you also will read about the recent work of many of our other faculty members, all of whom have earned the recognition of their peers and colleagues around the country for substantial academic, research, and professional contributions in their respective fields. Our faculty’s ongoing dedication to their scholarship and to their students—all in the face of a global pandemic—is precisely why Boyd’s profile continues to rise in legal education circles and will be especially important this year as we begin a national search for a new permanent dean.

Of course, Boyd couldn’t do what it does without the support of our alumni and our donors. Our alums are an incredible group of individuals who are as dedicated to their law school as they are to their communities. We highlight two alumnae in this issue: Washington Superior Court Judge Jennifer Andrews (’02) and local attorney Shane Jasmine Young (’04).  

We are also grateful to the hundreds of UNLV Boyd Law graduates who have taken time out of their busy schedules to remain engaged with the law school and participate in alumni events, including this year’s seventh Alumni Association golf tournament. The tournament raised more than $20,000 for the organization’s endowed scholarship and will help law students cover expenses ranging from books to tuition. 

We are equally grateful to our many donors and supporters. Thanks to your ongoing generosity, we’re able to fund community-based programs and initiatives, conduct important legal research, offer financial assistance to students in need, and help ensure the overall success of all students. 

And finally, to our students: None of this would be possible without you. The diversity of experiences and perspectives that you bring to the law school are among the many things that distinguish UNLV Boyd Law and make it such a remarkable community. I have been inspired and impressed over and over again these last 20 months as I’ve watched you remain focused, flexible, and devoted to your studies and to each other. You have served as a constant reminder—even in these difficult times—that this law school will meet our challenges head-on and continue to realize its mission.

It is my honor to serve as the Interim Dean of the Boyd School of Law this year, a year in which many things returned to something approaching normal—and one in which we celebrate our ongoing successes in providing students with an excellent legal education, supporting our faculty in their scholarship, recognizing the important work of our alumni, and serving our community.

— Sara Gordon, Interim Dean and William S. Boyd Professor of Law