Student Spotlight December 2013
Mr. Justis completed his undergraduate degree, a B.A. in Criminal Justice, at Indiana University in 2000. Soon thereafter, he went on to continue his education at Michigan State University, earning a M.S. in Criminal Justice in 2004. Currently, Mr. Justis is a student in the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.
What brought you to the University of Louisville?
Following the completion of my graduate studies at Michigan State, I accepted an instructional position at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Indiana, where I spent two superb years as an Instructor of Criminal Justice Studies in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Studies. Being so close geographically to the city of Louisville, I spent a good deal of time (both personal and professional) in town, falling simultaneously in love with the city and its University.
When I chose to shift gears from academia to the study and practice of law, I was drawn immediately to the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, where I had already discovered a welcoming and challenging academic environment.Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):
My research – beginning as a student of criminology and continuing as a legal scholar – has focused primarily on social justice and civil rights; I am principally interested in legal issues that impact traditionally under-represented groups, and those implicating state and federal constitutional protections.
Most recently, my scholarship has focused on legal issues surrounding the national trend towards marriage equality, a cause for which I feel quite strongly. As a lifelong student of the constitution and vocal advocate for fairness, I consider marriage equality a fundamental contemporary civil rights issue, and am proud to be an active participant in the legal discourse as it unfolds.How would you describe your area of study/ specific research to your grandmother?
I would describe my area of study as social justice. I am interested in the pursuit of justice and fairness for all people – regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, or any other immutable difference between them. All people deserve an equal opportunity for the pursuit of liberty; we have a responsibility not just to allow that liberty to exist of its own accord, but to protect it for those most likely to have it withheld, diminished, or stolen away.Awards, honors, publications:
I have been fortunate to have a number of publishing opportunities throughout my academic career, in both scholarly journals and published texts. Most recently, I contributed several entries for Steven Chermak and Frankie Bailey’s Crimes of the Centuries: An Encyclopedia of Notorious Crimes, Criminals, and Criminal Trials in American History, including a case study of Loving v. Virginia (1967), the seminal Supreme Court decision invalidating bans on interracial marriage.
I have also had the opportunity to travel to a number of professional conferences, including last year’s annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago to speak about the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) and Native Americans’ rights. I will be traveling to the annual meeting once again this year to provide an update following this year’s Supreme Court’s decision invalidating Section 3 of DOMA.
I am also proud to work with the University of Louisville Law Clinic, providing representation for clients seeking protective orders in domestic violence cases. Working with the clinic keeps me (along with my colleagues at the clinic) constantly active in the courtrooms of the Jefferson Country Family Court.How do you think this advanced degree will change your role in society?
I believe that a legal education prepares a student not just for the complex study of law, but for the complex study of social and political realities – as well as the institutions, forces, and processes that drive them. I feel that my legal scholarship – along with my sociological education – has prepared me to critically and practically approach social justice issues, and to be an active participant in those processes.What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?
My favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL has been the ever-present sense of opportunity that permeates the campus and its residents. I have felt keenly that sense of promise – of growth as an institution and as a body of scholars, of personal and professional enrichment, and of interdisciplinary scholarship – since my arrival, and it’s that very feeling that I will take into my career as a legal professional.