The 2023-24 Dean’s Luminaries in Law Lecture & Conversation Series kicked off Wednesday evening with a visit to Seattle University School of Law by nationally renowned legal journalist and author Dahlia Lithwick.
A senior editor at Slate, an MSNBC correspondent, a New York Times bestselling author, and the host of the Amicus podcast, Lithwick has analyzed the courts and the law for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, CNN, and many other prominent news outlets.
The Luminaries series features nationally and internationally preeminent leaders from law practice, the judiciary, government, media, and the corporate world to share their bold ideas about the future of law and the legal profession.
“We thought we would start this year’s Luminaries season with a big splash, and so we are thrilled to welcome none other than Dahlia Lithwick to our campus,” Dean Anthony E. Varona said to attendees at the beginning of the event.
Seattle U Law Professor Deirdre Bowen, who founded and directs the law school’s Family Law Center, interviewed Lithwick about her latest book, "Lady Justice," which showcases recent legal advocacy by women lawyers and lawmakers at the state and national levels.
Her disgust for certain Trump administration policies, such as the 2017 travel ban on immigrants from certain countries, inspired her to write the book, which initially began as a history.
“I had been covering these policies as a journalist, and I thought, ‘I just want to have a meaningful history of them,’” she said. “Then it became clear as I was writing the book that this is not history at all. It doesn’t end with the election of President Biden, it doesn’t end with Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade). What I thought I was writing as history is now kind of a playbook — this is how we’re going to keep winning, even in the face of what feels like catastrophic headwinds.”
Bowen asked Lithwick how the idea behind “Lady Justice” changed when the
Dobbs decision was released just as Lithwick was finishing the book. Lithwick, who has been on the Supreme Court beat for 25 years, said that the history-making case was a “wake-up call.”
“If we don’t realize that Dobbs was the beginning, then next it’s going to be birth control, and it’s going to be IVF, and it’s going to be surrogacy. It’s part of the culture of, ‘Well, that was terrible, but thank God it’s over.’ And that’s just not where we are,” she said.
Still, Lithwick said she is hopeful for the future of women’s rights. She recalled women protesting in Iran as her book was released.
“They don’t have courts, they don’t have justices, they don’t have elected representatives, they don’t have the machinery of the law that we have ... And so what I wanted to signal was that we are so privileged, we are so lucky in this country,” she said “And so we have this phenomenal power to fight for and create a legal world that is just and equal and dignified. That doesn’t change when Roe gets reversed. It doesn’t change the fact that we have all this power, and we have to step into that.
“I wanted to tell a story that every single young woman entering law school could see herself in,” Lithwick continued. “I wanted every single 1L who reads this book to walk away with the sense that, ‘I get it. Not all women think alike, but every single woman in this book, faced with the option to do nothing or to do something, did something, and in so doing, held up the sky.’”
“Every single thing that has happened since this book came out a year ago has made me realize that women and law are magic,” she said. “The minute you give up, they win. So, we don’t get to give up.”