Legal Clinic Named for Retired
Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor

By Judy Nichols
October 24, 2011

Ret. Justice Ruth McGregor
Retired Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor

A legal clinic at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law that will help those affected by domestic violence has been named the Ruth V. McGregor Family Protection Clinic in honor of the recently retired Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Interim Dean Douglas Sylvester announced today.

The Clinic, housed in the College of Law's Diane Halle Center for Family Justice, will help low-income victims of family violence, many of whom cannot afford legal help and fear for their lives. It will provide free legal assistance with custody and divorce, as well as direct representation relating to protective orders. The clinic also will provide training and experience to law students who, under close supervision, are given primary responsibility for work with the clients and learn trial advocacy, community education and victim empowerment.

"I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who has made this possible," McGregor said. "It brings together the two things I care about - legal education and the justice system.

"You can't work in the court system and not worry about the effects of domestic violence, on the victims, the children, what happens in their school, their futures. It's a ripple effect. And you see a lot of failures, not because people don't work hard, but because of a lack of resources. This will be another resource."

ASU President Michael M. Crow praised the formation of the clinic.

"The issue of family violence is one of life and death," Crow said. "This clinic - named for one of Arizona's champions of justice - will bring the force of the university to bear, in research and direct legal action, and rewrite the future for families in Arizona and across the country."

Douglas Sylvester, Interim Dean, said the College of Law could not be more excited that its newest clinic will be named after one of its most distinguished alumni.

"Justice McGregor exemplifies all that is great about this law school, this state and the legal profession," Sylvester said. "She has not only been a distinguished professional, she has committed her career to public service and advocating for social justice.

"The affiliation of our Family Protection Clinic with someone as distinguished as Ruth McGregor signals that this is a clinic that will do incredible work. It is in the hands of one of the best young clinical professors in the country, Jaime Dahlstedt, and under her guidance, we know that the Clinic will live up to the honor of being named after Ruth McGregor."

Dahlstedt said students in the clinic will be expected to think deeply about the universe of the client's problems and goals, not just the particular proceeding in front of them.

"Their clinic experience will provide them with an understanding and appreciation for justice lawyering and how to effectuate change in the legal system," Dahlstedt said. "There is no better role model for the students to follow than Justice McGregor."

The Diane Halle Center for Family Justice was founded in 2010 with a generous donation from the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation. The Center works to promote the well-being and protect the human rights of children and families through legal representation that incorporates multidisciplinary initiatives in education, advocacy and scholarship. The Center recently moved downtown, where it can more easily serve its clients in a model that brings many services under one roof.

"Ruth McGregor has been active at multiple levels where justice is truly being served," said Diane Halle, president of the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation, whose vision helped found the Center. "Her active role in seeking out justice for women is aptly rewarded by this naming."

Marilyn Seymann, CEO of the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation, who helped bring the partnership together, said she was thrilled that the Clinic is being named for a woman.

"Ruth McGregor's leadership in the area of justice is an inspiration," Seymann said. "I like the fact that women, so affected by this issue, look up and they find leadership, by women, in honor of women."

Sarah Buel, Faculty Director of the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice, said the Clinic will have a lasting effect.

"Students, through their experiences in this clinic, will go out into the world to become leaders in the fight against this deadly scourge on society," Buel said. "They will build a legacy to justice in Ruth McGregor's name."

The Clinic is funded by donations from the Carstens Family Funds, which supports youth, scholarship and social-issue programs, the law firm of Fennemore Craig, which has 180 lawyers in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, and NextCare Urgent Care, one of the nation's leading urgent care providers.

Carstens Family Funds was created by Bill Carstens who, as a young man living in suburban Los Angeles, received a "campership," a small scholarship enabling him to attend a YMCA camp. He never learned the identity of the donor, but vowed that once he had financial success, he would follow that person's example.

"Although I'm not in the legal community, I know and admire Justice McGregor's work," said Deborah Carstens, who manages the Carstens Family Funds efforts in Arizona. "I think her name should be in three-foot-high letters on the Clinic."

Dean Sylvester said the College of Law is grateful for the outstanding generosity of its donors.

"In these difficult economic times we cannot move forward without the incredible energy of people like Deborah Carstens," Sylvester said. "Her inspiring gift will result in better lives for victims of domestic violence and exemplifies the very best of this law school."

The Clinic also is supported by Fennemore Craig, where McGregor worked as an employment attorney for the first 15 years of her legal career.

"Domestic violence is a pressing social issue, and we were interested in doing something to address it," said Timothy J. Berg, chair of the management committee at Fennemore Craig. "It is very important to Ruth, and we thought it was a great opportunity to honor her in a way that has tangible results."

McGregor, one of Arizona's most respected and experienced judges, graduatedsumma cum laudefrom the College of Law in 1974, and was the first law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (ret.). McGregor was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1989, and to the Arizona Supreme Court in 1998, serving as Vice Chief Justice from 2002-2005, and Chief Justice from 2005 until she retired in 2009.

She also serves as Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence at the College of Law, directing a program that focuses on the interplay of local, state, federal and international governance.

"Nobody expects to have something like this named for them," McGregor said. "It makes me think of the importance of the work being done, the faculty and students who are there all the time, the victims who need help.

"I'm excited about having the Clinic and having it be closer to the people who need its help. And I'm excited to see the vision this group of strong women has shown and their long-term commitment to the issues of domestic violence. They have coalesced and found ways to have a real impact."