A Life in the Law with Paul Bender
Sept. 5, 2023
In an exclusive conversation, we had the privilege to sit down with ASU Law Professor Paul Bender, a distinguished former Dean of the Law College and a one-time Principal Deputy Solicitor General who passionately argued over 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since the early days of Horizon, Professor Bender has been a cherished guest, consistently offering his expertise to demystify intricate legal matters and discuss pivotal cases before both the State and U.S. Supreme Courts. In this interview, we explore Professor Bender’s invaluable contributions to Arizona Horizon.
“Without law if everybody just does what they want to do, at the moment they want to do, that can be chaotic and really bad for most people. The law to me is the way of organizing life and taking things that people do all the time and trying to make sense out of it and make rules about what you can and can’t do,” Bender said.
Bender says he originally majored in physics as a student at Harvard but he soon realized that it wasn’t for him. As an undergraduate he took a class in constitutional law that Bender enjoyed and it helped him decide to major in law.
He attended high school and was in the same class as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and he says she was at the top of the class. Ginsburg and Bender were not close friends but he recalls her being very smart and that she was a “star in the classroom.”
The most memorable case Bender says he argued before the Supreme Court was the United States against Virginia where women were not allowed into the Virginia Military Institute.
“The issue was really interesting. We were clearly on the right side. It was interesting making the arguments of why we were on the right side. I had a feeling that I was accomplishing something by getting the court to do the right thing,” Bender said.
Bender said that he feels that the law can be simply explained through telling stories that people can understand. He also had his own ideas about the current Supreme Court.
“Their ethics are a big problem. Their decisions are a bigger problem. Another thing that is a problem that has been on my mind for years is their opinions. These opinions are unreadable, they are 100 pages long. An important bill like the affirmative action case. Who are they written for, who are they writing for? Law professors? I say to myself, why are they spending all their time doing this? Why aren’t they telling a story that people can understand, because that’s they they are there, the law is there, that’s why the constitution is there…” Bender said.
One of Bender’s goals as the Dean was to diversity the faculty and the law students coming into the school. He attributes the support of his wife to helping him see the importance of Indian culture and how vital it was that Indian laws were a part of the law curriculum. Bender says that ASU has the highest number of Indian law students in the country.