Law school honors contributions of two retiring faculty

May 08, 2013

An accomplished constitutional law scholar and a clinical professor whose work ranged from courtrooms in Seattle to rural Latin America retire from Seattle University School of Law this year.

Professors David Engdahl and Raven Lidman will be honored as professors emeriti at Commencement on May 18.

Professor David Engdahl
David EngdahlProfessor Engdahl joined the faculty at Seattle University School of Law in 1981, bringing significant experience from the public and private sectors to his courses in Constitutional Law, Federal Courts, and Conflict of Law.

His law school teaching career began in Colorado in 1966, but after nine years he left to assume responsibility for legal services to that state's colleges and universities as an Assistant Attorney General. Later he founded a small, general practice firm in Denver, where he specialized in constitutional issues.

Professor Engdahl's practice in two states and several federal District Courts and Courts of Appeal, as well as the Supreme Court, involved him in some nationally prominent pro bono and public interest cases in the 1970s, including the National Guard shooting of students at Kent State University and the domestic use of military resources to end the American Indian Movement occupation of Wounded Knee.

His dominant interest has been the constitutional allocation of power among state and federal governments. His publications include the handbook "Constitutional Federalism in a Nutshell," chapters in several other books, and numerous scholarly articles, several of which have materially influenced the course of constitutional discussion and decision on the issues he has addressed.

In 2009, shortly before entering phased retirement, Professor Engdahl published a major work, "The Classic Rule of Faith and Credit" in the Yale Law Journal.

"This is one of the standout publications by any member of our faculty in recent years," Dean Mark C. Niles said. "For Professor Engdahl, it serves as a fitting capstone to a praiseworthy scholarly career."

Professor Raven Lidman
Raven LidmanProfessor Lidman has been a Clinical Professor of Law since 1987, teaching in the Youth Advocacy Clinic and the International Human Rights Clinic, inspiring her students to pursue human rights work.

Lidman, a 1977 graduate of the law school, taught courses focusing on juvenile criminal defense with an emphasis on teen prostitution and right to counsel in truancy cases. She wrote human rights reports, drafted treaty language and filed or participated in cases in the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as state, federal and immigration fora.

When she joined the law school, there were three faculty members teaching one clinic a semester that combined civil and criminal law. Today, the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic offers more than a dozen clinics in specific areas of the law, ranging from mental health court to immigration law.  

Clinics provide great training for students, she said, and she's proud the law school has embraced clinical education.

"It's so truly compelling — a real person and a real case," she said.

Students learn interviewing skills, how to write briefs, conduct legal analysis, and other practical skills. Perhaps most valuable is learning how to build relationships with clients — and where to draw boundaries. That's especially important in the Youth Advocacy Clinic, where students often work with troubled teens.

In addition to representing them, she and her students refer them to services and get to know them, their families and their obstacles in order to present a full picture at sentencing and provide them the best chance for success as adults.

Another passion has been her work in Latin America. She has helped link the law school with clinics in Latin America, sharing pedagogy, pro bono/social justice visions and projects, and placing students in life-changing internships. As part of the university-wide commitment to Nicaragua and ties with the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), she works with the UCA's law clinic.

Each summer, two SU law students are selected to work alongside their peers in that clinic. Since 2000, she has been collaborating with the law clinic at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru. She also went with a team from the clinic that had the rare opportunity to argue before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, the highest tribunal for human rights matters in the hemisphere.

Lidman's scholarship has focused on international law and foreign domestic law regarding a right to publicly funded legal aid for indigent parties in civil matters, commonly referred to as "civil Gideon." She has been an active participant in the Coalition for Indigent Representation and Civil Legal Equality (CIRCLE) and the National Center for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC).

She plans to continue her crusade for civil Gideon in retirement, hoping to expose as many lawyers and judges — through CLEs, amicus briefs and other advocacy — to a practice that is standard in many countries but not available in the United States.

Her students and colleagues will miss her.

"We all celebrate Raven's tremendous contributions to our students' learning, our clinical program's elevation and expansion, and to our sense of community here at the law school," said Professor Lisa Brodoff, director of the clinic. "Raven has been a terrific teacher, colleague, advisor and friend. She is leaving her mark on clinical legal education both nationally and internationally with her groundbreaking work on behalf of clinics in Peru and Nicaragua."

She is grateful for the law school that has also taught her a lot.

"I think this is the best job anybody can have," she said. "The school has allowed me to grow a lot as a lawyer."