Law professors continue to play politics
Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 22:11
The law school could be producing more politicians because Steven Mulroy, a professor of law, will not be the school's sole faculty representative in elections this spring and summer.
Lawrence Pivnick and Lee Harris, professors of law, both confirmed they would be on ballots this summer. However Harris, who is looking to fill Harold Ford's soon-to-be-vacated seat, and Pivnick, a circuit court judge candidate for Division 6 in Shelby County, form a sharp contrast.
Meet Harris. He is 27 years old and graduated from law school only a few years ago. He is the youngest of 25 candidates in the county, but next fall he hopes to fill Ford's position. He graduated from Overton High School less than a decade ago and this is his first campaign.
"I think young folks, like me, have a place and a voice in the electoral system," Harris said.
Harris' background is impressive. He graduated near the top of class from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a degree in international relations then earned a law degree from Yale Law School. He has studied in Spain and France and was a visiting student at the London School of Economics.
Harris has put plenty of time and energy toward his campaign. He said he is the only candidate who has gone door-to-door to promote himself. However, hard work and dedication are not new to his daily routine.
Aside from rising early every morning to jog his usual 15 miles a week, Harris has done plenty of work since leaving Yale. In addition to teaching poverty law at The University of Memphis, he chairs a pre-kindergarten program for lower income families and has studied the Tennessee public education system.
From his research, Harris wrote several articles on school finance, welfare reform, property tax, business regulation and tenant's rights. He said he plans to use his knowledge of Memphis' inner city systems to drive his campaign.
"I was talking to voters about issues that concern them," he said. "I hear that folks can't afford healthcare."
While Harris realizes this is his first campaign, he said people are looking for a "fresh face" and a "new voice."
Outside Harris' office in the law school's west wing and down the hall in room 244 is Pivnick's office. His walls are covered by shelves filled with volumes of work. He even wrote some of the books. The "Tennessee Circuit Court Practice," which he authored, examines the circuit court system from structure and jurisdiction to trials and rules of guidance.
"All the judges are using my book for a privacy source," Pivnick said. "It's a general book that helps attorneys practice in that court."
Pivnick has also taught at The U of M's law school for the past 30 years. Several of his former students have gone on to become attorneys.
"I know half of the attorneys in the courtroom who were my students," he said.
He said he understands the circuit court, adding that he has no doubts about the results that will be announced on Aug. 3.
"It's the workforce of the court system," he said. "I'm the most qualified candidate."
Pivnick said his experience tells everything. In addition to teaching, he also has served as the law school's former associate dean and was in the division of the law school's civil program. He also practiced at various clinics and represented clients who could not afford attorneys.
Pivnick said his knowledge would definitely be a bonus when the Division 6 circuit court elections come around.
"They want a judge as knowledgeable as possible," he said. "I have a substantial amount of knowledge and taught people how to conduct trials."
In addition, Pivnick said he hopes to hold fair and impartial trials and improve some of the procedures.
"Everyone has equal access to justice," he said. "All citizens have a right to equality of the court."
Pivnick said he wanted people to know what their rights are and be able to have their cases heard "within a reasonable period of time."
Pivnick's said his campaign would not receive as much attention as other candidates.
"I plan to run my campaign on a minimum budget," he said.
He recalled going to New York where he noticed the faces of several circuit court candidates in billboards. However, circuit court judge "is not a position that should be bought," Pivnick said.
He said he has been very active in the community and expects people to vote for his qualities.
Although it may have been three decades since Pivnick has practiced law, he said his dream to become a judge may have started when he was a child.
"When I told my mother about my campaign for circuit court judge she said 'when you were three or four years old, you told everybody you wanted to be a judge,'" he said.
Harris and Pivnick have received support from fellow faculty, including Mulroy, who hopes to take a seat in the Shelby County Commission's office next fall.
"I support both of them and wish them the best," he said. "I have a high regard for them."