Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Law school adjuncts share high-profile experiences with law students

While DU’s Sturm College of Law faculty members boast a wealth of real-world experience and academic achievement, there’s another component to the educational picture that adds a bit extra.

Try a class taught by a sitting state attorney general or a sitting district court judge or an appeals court judge. Or, try a class taught by a member of the Colorado’s Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.

“Adjunct professors teach in ways that full-time faculty members cannot,” says Fred Cheever, associate dean of academic affairs at the Sturm College of Law. “Many of our adjunct faculty are judges or seasoned practitioners in specific fields. They give students a different perspective.”

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers taught a class in spring 2009 and returned for the 2009–10 academic year, offering his perspective in a course called Prosecutor as Protagonist. In addition to bringing his insights from serving as a district attorney, Suthers also had access to some high-profile guest speakers including Gov. Bill Ritter, death penalty expert David Lane and sitting Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

Suthers says he enjoyed the give-and-take with students and the opportunity to provide insight into the job of a prosecutor.

It’s that insight that’s so valuable, Cheever says.

“When our students graduate, they don’t want to be law professors,” Cheever says. “They want to be lawyers. They enjoy learning from practicing lawyers and sitting judges. There is a close relationship between teaching and advocacy. Many, many good lawyers are good teachers because both teaching and practice require helping other people understand complicated things.”

And while Todd Nelson, a practicing public defender for Adams County, teaches trial practice and the view from the trenches, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nancy Rice provides a view from the other side of the state’s highest bench.

But courses aren’t just taught by those who try cases. Richard Martinez, director of forensic psychiatry services for Denver Health Medical Center, teaches psychiatry and law. And Bob Noun, executive director of communications and external affairs for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), teaches the law and policy of renewable energy.

Other adjuncts signed on for the academic year are:
• Judge John Dailey, Colorado Court of Appeals
• Linda Donnelly, former attorney regulation counsel, Colorado Supreme Court
• Dan Edwards, Colorado senior assistant attorney general
• Judge Ed Felter, Colorado State Administrative Courts
• John Gleason, attorney regulation counsel, Colorado Supreme Court
• Carol Harmon, enforcement officer, Colorado Oil & Gas Commission
• Judge Will Hood, Second Judicial District
• Judge Bob McGahey, Second Judicial District
• Lonny Rose, CEO and President of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy
• Judge Bob Russel, Colorado Court of Appeals
• Clay Samford, U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental & Natural Resources Division
• Magistrate Craig Shaffer, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
• Donald Wharton, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund

Cheever says DU has been fortunate in finding the right voices to augment courses taught by full-time faculty.

“We are very grateful to our adjuncts,” Cheever says. “They teach out of the goodness of their hearts to help us make the Colorado bar as good as it can be.”

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