My good friend Professor Gil Kujovich passed away on December 14. He was a long-time beloved teacher at Vermont Law School who was one of the kindest and smartest person I met during my time teaching there.
Gil served in the Vietnam War and then attended Harvard Law School, where he was an articles editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then went on to clerk for Judge Shirley Hufstedler of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Justices Potter Stewart and Byron White of the U.S. Supreme Court. He then served in various positions in the Carter Administration, including as counsel to the White House Intelligence Oversight Board from 1979 to 1980 and then as assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Education. He joined the Vermont Law School faculty in 1981. During the consideration of civil union (same-sex marriage) legislation by the Vermont Legislature in the early 2000s, he testified numerous times before the House and Senate Judiciary committees.
Gil was deeply committed to the ideals of justice and racial equality and carried out those values by mentoring many of Vermont Law School’s students of color, including Shirley Jefferson who went on to become Vermont Law School’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Diversity. Vermont Law School carried a tribute that provides the remembrances of many students and colleagues. His kindness both as a teacher and colleague and his generosity of spirit left a lasting impression on all he came into contact with, especially myself. Both I and my wife Tinling will miss him dearly. (The picture of is of me with Gil and his wife Joni in 2003 or thereabouts.)
On Wednesday, the Board of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District voted to grant a 36 acre cultural conservation easement at the top of Mount Umunuhm to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. [Also San Jose Mercury News reporting.] The decision essentially confers rights to carry out tribal ceremonies and other cultural activities, including building a garden, in the area where there is also now a public park. (Mount Umunhum is a new regional park with gorgeous views of the South Bay area that just opened a few months ago. Since it is only a half an hour away from my home, a hike there has been on my to-do list.) According to the Open Space District, “Mount Umunhum is a sacred site to the Amah Mutsun people and is central to their creation story.”
While the decision has attracted some controversy, it seems to me to be a generous and worthy gesture of a public agency to help this tribe preserve its cultural heritage. It is also designed to right some of the historical injustices that Native Americans have suffered, especially displacement from their ancestral lands. For non-Native Americans, this step helps to recognize the important role that Indian Tribes have played in this country’s history and their continuing inextricable importance to our nation’s broader culture.
Given that I have never heard of a government agency doing anything like this before, this step may set an important precedent for other local and state government agencies in their interactions with Native groups.
Interestingly, public recognition of this tribe’s ancestral connection to these lands also touches my own institution, Santa Clara University. According to the Mercury News, “the Amah Mutsun is made up of about 600 descendants of Ohlones, who once inhabited the area south of San Jose, and now largely live in Central Valley towns.” The Ohlone Indians make up the Native American community that Mission Santa Clara Mission de Assis, founded by Father Junipero Serra, originally was designed to serve and to convert to Christianity. That mission still stands in the heart of the Santa Clara University campus and was the origin of the present-day university. Yet, unlike the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, I am not aware of Santa Clara University formally recognizing the Ohlone Indians’ contributions to and past relationship with the University (beyond references in the University history). (It happens to be an issue that I am asked about surprisingly frequently by visitors.)
Here’s a thoughtful op-ed piece by my colleague Margaret Russell on the pending Supreme Court case regarding a Colorado baker’s violation of the state’s public accommodation anti-discrimination laws in refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple’s due to his religious beliefs: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/12/01/wedding-cake-debate-serving-public
“Graduates of Santa Clara University School of Law have exceeded the California ABA-accredited law school average pass rate on the state’s bar examination for the third year in a row.
Santa Clara Law’s pass rate for first-time takers for the July 2017 exam was 78%. This is 8 points higher than the average for first-time takers from California ABA-accredited law schools, 18 points higher than the average for all first-time takers, and 29 points above the overall pass rate.”
For the full news, see this link to SCU Law website:
The California Supreme Court decided to keep the passing score for the Bar Exam at 1440, the second highest in the nation. The review was prompted in large part by the steady decline in the Bar pass in recent years. The pass rate for the 2016 July Bar Exam (which most new law graduate take) stood at about 43%, compared to 55-60% in earlier years.
As is well-known, California has the lowest bar passage rate in the country. Of all the 50 states, Nebraska’s was the highest nationwide, at almost twice that for last July’s Bar Exam, 82%. For comparison, other states’ bar passage rate for last July’s exam: New York – 64%, Florida – 59%, Texas – 71%, Illinois – 72%, Massachusetts – 71%, Pennsylvania – 69%, Virginia – 73%, Washington – 70%, New Jersey – 65%, Georgia – 66%. (The only jurisdiction that had a 100% pass rate was the Northern Mariana Islands, but it is not a state and only had 2 persons take the exam last July.)
Clearly, many lawyers who are unable to meet the requirements in California would have passed the bar exam in other jurisdictions.
For a complete listing of bar passage rates across the country, see the National Committee of Bar Examiner’s report for 2016.
I had a terrific morning running the San Jose Half-Marathon with my friends Professor Frank Wu (Hastings Law) and Professor Carol Suzuki (U. New Mexico Law). I came in at 2:15:07, a personal best, just edging out Frank (2:17), who also ran a personal best. Even though Carol would have been faster than either of us, she decided help pace Frank.
The highlight was seeing a group of my first-year torts students at the corner of Washington and Newhall, closest to Santa Clara University, who had come out to cheer me on (Bekah, JP, Garrett, Osvaldo, Justin, Davis, Hikari, Caitlin, Joyce, Felipe, Alexis and Roosa). There even seemed to be a student who had called in via face-time, though I don’t know who. What a cheer squad! Of course I had to stop and take a selfie with them.
Some of my friends know that I am an avid gardener. Over the past several years, I have been transforming both my front and backyard into something more of an mini-orchard/farm. The farmer in me enjoys the connection to the land, the work that is part of producing food, and the idea of self-sufficiency. But it’s definitely still a work-in-progress. My front yard is now a mini-orchard, with the lawn that used to grace it now gone and replaced with wood chips. (Some of my neighbors probably see it as as something of an eyesore; but I feel good about getting rid of the front lawn, which was purely ornamental and served no useful function (at least not to me) .)
This morning, as I was inspecting my fruit trees (in my suburban version of “walking the land,” something I used to do when we still lived in Vermont and had 2 acres of land for our house), I noticed this on one of my Asian Pear tree.
It appears to be a set of blossoms. In late September! After I just harvested a nice crop of pears just a month ago! Obviously, the tree is confused.
Ordinarily, fruit trees require some period (several months) of chill time before they will bloom and fruit again. However, we’ve had a rather hot summer. It is rather mysterious. In June, something similar happened to my blueberry bushes. One of them also set some blossoms, well after I had already picked all of the ripe berries. Those few additional berries just ripened recently. I had attributed that to a late bloom. But the blooms on the pear tree are a real anomaly. Very peculiar indeed.