New ASU Law College Building

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Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has moved from the Tempe campus to Downtown Phoenix, with a grand opening coming next week. Thomas Williams, the law college’s assistant dean for academic affairs and the institution, will tell us more about the Arizona Center for Law and Society building and the advantages of being closer to courts in downtown Phoenix.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon...ASU has a new building for its law college. Also tonight, Arizona ranks low in a new national education survey. And Maricopa County's animal shelter is facing an excess of unwanted pets. Those stories next on Arizona Horizon.

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TED: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law is set to move into its new home in Downtown Phoenix. The new building is called the Arizona Center for Law and Society, and the architect behind the structure says it's more than just a pretty face.

TOMAS ROSSANT: I think what this building represents is nothing stylistically that's important--It certainly continues the traditions of modernism. But what I think it does very novelly is connect the institution to the public realm and makes a lot of contact surface area so that the public can engage with the law school, legal education, legal issues, the things that should matter to our community.

We take very seriously making environmentally friendly buildings but we've moved way past LEED certification. This building is a high performance building and this is what Arizona State University demands. This building has one of the highest energy use index ratings of any new building on campus, which means it uses the least amount of energy. But we didn't have to sacrifice any type of visual permeability, views, opening ourselves up to the environment.

TED: A grand opening of the new building will be held next Monday, highlighted by an appearance by the college's namesake, former U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Here now to tell us more about this remarkable new structure in Downtown Phoenix is Thomas Williams, the law college's Assistant Dean for academic affairs and the institution. Good to have you here.


TED: Maybe I should say welcome to Downtown. My goodness, that is quite a building.

THOMAS: We are really happy to be joining Downtown.

TED: Why is the law college moving from Tempe to Downtown?

THOMAS: I want to start with… the Arizona Center for Law and Society is bigger than just the law college. There is that other aspect, but joining the center and coming Downtown for us was a natural sort of step in our evolution. As you know--you live in Phoenix--Phoenix is the heart of the legal community. The courts are here, the government is here, all the largest law firms are here, and there's that sort of legal community here.

In addition, there's a population here. Phoenix is a vibrant sort of population of people that we want to interact with, and in Tempe we were kind of in a sleepy little corner and now we have an opportunity to be involved with the legal community, with the other schools downtown, journalism and nursing and public service. For us it's really an exciting opportunity to join the downtown community.

TED: Indeed, and events and exhibits on the role of justice in society will be held at the building. Talk to us about that.

THOMAS: New not only are we holding events--and there's quite a few that our coming--but we've already scheduled, I think it's about 40 to 50 different organizations, that are going to be holding events within our building in these same areas.

An example will be all the chief justices of every state supreme court are going to be in our building this coming January to talk about what is going on with state supreme courts and how those things are moving. We have the alternative dispute resolution section of the ABA coming to meet about that. We have presentations about different types of law and how it's going to affect criminal law, criminal justice, reform, what's going on there. All these things are coming into our space and we're really excited about that opportunity.

TED: And there's a great hall that's going to house, I guess, conferences and lectures also serving as an appellate courtroom?

THOMAS: Yes, the old building that we had in Tempe also had this sort of space, a great hall. It's a very common sort of formal appellate space. What's different about ours is it's a little bit more of a flexible space. So it has a number of different modes. There is a lot of automation, including buttons you press for seats that come out of benches and flip up. But we have one mode where it's a very casual space for people to hang out in off the restaurant.

We have another mode where we bring in seats and bring in a podium, and we have a spot for doing lectures. And we have another mode where we actually have a bench that's assembled, an appellate court bench, that we can roll out and put in front of the seats.

Historically the law school has hosted the state supreme court once a year with great regularity. We've had Ninth Circuit court of appeals hearings. We've had the Navajo Supreme Court come and do a hearing. We've had a federal district court come. Each of those times we're trying to create opportunities, not just for our students to see the law being made, but also for the public, and we really appreciate that. The justices have been great with that, too.

TED: Indeed. We have some shots here, again, some more shots of the building. It's really designed to engage the public about what the role the law plays in everyday life, is that the idea here?

THOMAS: That is the idea.

We sometimes forget, but there's very little of our lives that doesn't have the law involved in it, whether it's the laws of driving or if we're working a business, the various things that cover that, or paying our taxes or whatever. There's very little you do you don't have an intersection with law.

But so often the public doesn't really understand that interaction and they don't see the law except for maybe on TV in a courtroom drama or something like that. We're trying to create opportunities to engage with the public about the law. We feel like this is a great opportunity for education, not just for the public, but for our students.

We think in these interactions between us, our students, the public, judges, attorneys, all these various people, and the people from the rest of the downtown ASU community, that we can create an opportunity for learning for everyone where we all have a successful event. I'm sure you have been in that position where you've had to teach somebody about something. You never learn it better than when you are teaching someone else. This is an opportunity for our students to do that with the public.

TED: Great information. Before we go, last question here… there's a restaurant?

THOMAS: There is going to be a restaurant in the building on the first floor. We have a restaurant coming in. We're really excited about the opportunity to do this.

We're hoping, and we're taking some steps to ensure this, that it will be a place where our students and our faculty and also the lawyers in town that we interact with on a daily basis will hang out in the afternoons or in the evenings and really sort of bring something more to this downtown community. Obviously Phoenix has got a lot of great restaurants and great places to go but we're hoping to have one more. We're definitely looking for a local organization.

TED: That's good to hear a local restaurant will be there. Well good luck, we'll see what happens. Monday is the grand opening. School starts the 18th, correct?

THOMAS: Our school starts on Wednesday.

TED: Then we'll see how the population shifts in downtown phoenix.

THOMAS: I'm looking forward to it.

TED: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

THOMAS: Thank you.

Thomas Williams: Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law college's Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and the Institution

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