Harrisburg Campus law students busy juggling late-semester pressures heard an inspirational talk recently about how concerned citizens – particularly those with law degrees – can do extraordinary things.
The hour-long discussion March 29 by American Civil Liberties Union President Susan Herman turned on a theme of contemporary heroes. Herman, who also holds a chair as Centennial professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, spoke in The Pit during a two-day stop in central Pennsylvania sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg.
“You should never doubt one person can change the world,” Herman said.
She recounted numerous stories of cases handled by ACLU attorneys over more than nine decades. Speaking without notes, her remarks were most detailed on matters of extraordinary rendition, or the apprehension, transfer and sometimes torture of individuals in the name of fighting terrorism.
Herman discussed examples of innocent people held against their will – in one case simply because the person had a name similar to a suspected terrorist – and efforts by ACLU attorneys to seek the truth. To this day, no case brought on behalf of these individuals has been heard on its merits in a U.S. court. However, the lawyers’ work invoking the Freedom of Information Act has uncovered important information, like U.S. government memos on waterboarding
“To me this is heroism,” Herman said. “This is lawyers doing their jobs in the public interest.”
Herman’s positive approach to the role of lawyers was well received.
“I applaud your call for heroes and your support of civic engagement in justice,” Assistant Professor of Legal Methods Starla J. Williams
Herman also headlined a public dinner held on the Harrisburg campus as part of the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg’s “Great Female Authors Series.” Her newest book, “The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy” was published in late 2011.