In the aftermath of an intense few months in our country’s constitutional history, U.S. Senator Doug Jones addressed Cumberland School of Law students with what he coined a “teachable moment” about the recent impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
Jones, a 1979 Cumberland alumnus, made a special visit to campus to speak to the Cumberland student body on Feb. 7, to provide background information about this historical event while also highlighting the way he approached it given his legal training.
The forum opened with a video presentation of a recording of Senator Jones’ speech on the Senate floor during the trial, followed by his address to the students, and a question and answer segment moderated by law school dean Corky Strickland.
Dean Strickland noted that the topic addressed touches almost everything a law student needs to learn – ethics, constitutional law that sets parameters, and aspects of a trial.
“It’s a huge honor that one of our alumni is in this position,” Strickland said. “It’s also a huge honor that he thinks so carefully about the ethics and obligations that he carries into his role. To have the opportunity to hear about this process from someone who has lived it was a priceless learning opportunity for our law students.”
The forum also offered inspiration to the law students by seeing someone who was once in their shoes fill such an important role.
“Knowing he was once in the same position I am, I feel very privileged getting to hear him talk about his experience over the last few months in Washington,” said first-year student Terra Silva.
Silva took away several things from the event that she knows she will be able to use as an aspiring lawyer and possibly even a future public servant. “It was interesting to hear him use legal terms that I’m [currently] learning like ‘direct evidence’ and ‘circumstantial evidence’ that I learned about in class a few weeks ago,” she said.
“One thing that really stood out to me was that, in the midst of extreme partisanship, he tried to stay focused on the oath that he took and doing what he thought was right, regardless of all the craziness happening around him. I also liked that he emphasized the importance of his preparation – even though he was just a juror, he prepared as if he was going to be presenting a case, looking at it from both sides,” Silva added.
Dean Strickland continued to say that Cumberland’s first priority and focus is on the students. “We want to train lawyers who have the highest ethics and who will always be honest, and I think Senator Jones is an ideal model for this,” he said. “For our students to hear from Senator Jones, a Cumberland alumnus, in this capacity, has to inspire them.”
Jones commented on the opportunities Cumberland provided him while he was a law student and that he’s been looking for a good opportunity to give back.
“I hope they walked away from today knowing about the power of a legal education and that everything we do [as lawyers] can be a teachable moment,” Senator Jones said. “They don’t call practicing law ‘practicing’ for nothing – it is a constant work in progress – and being a part of this [impeachment trial] was an opportunity to give a teachable moment.”