March 01, 2006

U.S. appellate judge to speak at law school

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Priscilla R. Owen, who was confirmed last summer for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, will present a lecture in April at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Owen is presenting the 2006 Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture at 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 25, in the law school auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Law school Dean Peter C. Alexander is excited Owen has agreed to present the lecture.

"It is our premier legal lecture and we invite distinguished guests to share new ideas, cutting-edge ideas, and to challenge us about interesting areas of the law," he said.

"I'm very pleased we can bring yet another premier speaker to Carbondale for the Lesar Lecture series," he said.

The title of Owen's lecture is: "What does the future hold for our court systems?" She will discuss the impact of private dispute resolution, legislative enactments and other factors that may continue to change the nature of federal and state court dockets.

In 2005, speaker Roger Cossack's discussed the media's role in high-profile legal cases. In 2004, Cheryl Brown Henderson and John A. Stokes, two key figures in the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case that ended segregation in the nation's public schools, were presenters.

"These are typically lessons that we cannot offer in the classroom," he said. "It gives our students, faculty and the community an opportunity to learn."

Alexander started recruiting Owen for an appearance at SIUC at the end of last summer, shortly after she assumed her spot on the federal appeals court in June. Owen agreed after a series of conversations, he said.

Alexander said he had been thinking for a while "that we should try to have a speaker who might be perceived to be more conservative than the speakers we have had for the Lesar Lecture in recent years as a way to provide balance to the presentation of ideas."

"Judge Owen is clearly someone who is identified as being to the right of center in her ideology, and I thought she would make an interesting presentation," he said.

President Bush nominated Owen in 2001. But it took four years for her controversial appointment to gain approval in the U.S. Senate. Democrats opposed to her appointment threatened to filibuster, while Republican supporters threatened to eliminate the ability to filibuster judicial nominees. Last May, the two sides finally agreed to bring the nomination to a vote.

Prior to serving on the federal appeals court, Owen served as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court beginning in 1995. She won election to the Texas Supreme Court in 1994, and won a second term in 2000 with 84 percent of the vote. Prior to joining the court, Owen was a partner in the Houston- the state based law firm, Andrews & Kurth for 17 years, where her primary practice was commercial litigation.

Owen earned her undergraduate degree cum laude from Baylor University, and her law degree from the Baylor University School of Law in 1977.

The Hiram H. Lesar Lecture Series, established in 1992, honors the founding dean of the SIUC law school.

Developing citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Priscilla R. Owen

Priscilla R. Owen
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